It’s approaching two months since a peak audience of 11.7 million tuned in to watch England’s hopes of reaching a first women’s World Cup final end in a 2-1 defeat to the USA.

It was the largest audience for a TV broadcast this year but the fact it was the high point of what were consistently large viewing figures throughout the tournament demonstrated interest stretched beyond hoping to see the Lionesses win the semi-final.

The World Cup didn’t suddenly see a growth in women’s football; that had been building for many years as Grace Williams rightly pointed out when we discussed the effects of the tournament and how Watford FC Ladies can benefit from it. What was different was the level of new-found interest in the game. Wider interest means increased opportunity and France 2019 has provided a “huge starting point” as the club’s general manager explained.

“The women’s game has been growing and growing since I was a young girl and seeing what it is now from when I was playing when I was 10, 15 years old it’s massively grown,” Williams said. “However, I think the World Cup has made it more visual to people that perhaps weren’t interested or knew much about women’s football.

“Suddenly it was everywhere. We were on the front of papers, on all the news and the radio, I couldn’t get away from it. That’s never happened before and in that sense that’s a huge starting point in so many different ways.”

She continued: “I’ve got a niece who’s just turned seven who didn’t have any interest in football as much as I tried to get her to, but now she wants to come to a Watford game, she wants to be a mascot, she wants to play, just from seeing it and that is easily how the young ones are influenced.

“From a sponsorship opportunity, they’ve seen how huge it is so they all want to get involved, and I also think from a male club’s perspective in the Premier League, the Championship they’ve seen that and also jumped on it.

“So from all those different entry levels the World Cup has helped because of how big it was. But it’s building into that for so many years, it just hasn’t been as public.”

Golden Girls captain Helen Ward also believes the tournament has led to a change in attitude in some quarters – a change for the better.

She said: “Often I see on social media in particular if a club posts something about their women’s team you get a lot of nice replies but you always get the odd idiot saying ‘we don’t want to know about women’s football, it’s as boring as this, that and the other’. But I was lucky to enough to be involved in a shirt promotion with the club shop and I don’t think I saw one negative response which is quite amazing.

“I know Watford doesn’t have the biggest fan base in the Premier League but for not one person to say ‘why I have you posted this? We don’t want to see that’ was quite refreshing actually.

“I think it shows the community feel for Watford but also the respect that’s grown for women’s football and that could be down to the World Cup.

“I don’t know how many Watford fans watched it, I’m sure there were quite a few, but it’s nice to have that support in the community.

“There’s definitely been an upturn and I think the World Cup has had a big part to play in that.”

Watford Observer:

Helen Ward celebrates scoring against Portsmouth last weekend

Williams also believes the World Cup has helped with how the ladies team is now perceived increasingly widely.

She said: “You saw the viewing figures. We were then recognised as a club that is supporting their women’s team and Watford have become a lot closer together in pushing it and I think other people have started to notice that.

“From a club perspective, it’s good that people are noticing that and they are becoming invested in us, particularly the men’s fans are now classing themselves as Watford fans for the women, the academy and for the (men’s) first team.”

Interest in the women’s game may be at an all-time high – Williams said the Hornets are “absolutely” looking at staging another ladies fixture at Vicarage Road - but how can Watford use this to their advantage in the longer term?

“The young girls are the future of where we want to be,” the former Hornets Academy and centre of excellence player responded. “If there were not people playing football then we wouldn’t have a squad.

“Especially at our level and that little bit lower, they’ve got to have that passion to want to play because they might not have made it into an academy or a top league club.

“I think if they believe it and they keep going and you’re seeing that all these players are coming up through the National League, the Championship into the WSL (Women’s Super League) they can get to where they want to be and play seriously.

“Before it might have been you’re only going to get taken seriously if you’re in the top few clubs, whereas now we’re a tier three club but we’re taking it seriously and we’ve got a very professional set up and we’ve got girls who might not have been in a professional set up before.

“I think it’s capitalising on those young girls that want to keep playing and have a drive and have an ambition to get somewhere and aren’t just chucking it away because they haven’t made a top team academy or something.”

Another consequence of the success of the World Cup is an increased level of interest in players. Ward is well placed to discuss this from a number of perspectives - as a club captain, a Welsh international footballer, as someone who works in and around the media, in the community and from being a parent.

She explained: “What Watford have done is taken the responsibility with Grace’s position but also all the staff, the club as a whole have taken that responsibility of saying it’s up to us to put us out there, then you get the media wanting to come and speak.

“People are interested if you make it clear you’re going to put yourself out there and you’re going to give them something to roll with.

“You look at it from the outside and you think ‘you play football, well done’. Actually, no, you’ve got a work-life balance, you’ve got football to throw in, you’ve got a social life which everyone needs, family commitments and I think there’s a massive interest in that.

“Watford are fully behind and appreciate that and put us out there as people, not just footballers and from a player’s perspective I appreciate that and all the girls do. We’re treated as adults, we’re treated as important people to the club without making us feel like we’re untouchable if that makes sense.

“There’s that balance between being real people and footballers which the men’s game doesn’t always get the best press with in that sense but I’d like to think we’re trying to do things to make people approachable, whether it’s to fans or media, and the club as a whole have a big part to play in that, as well as the girls themselves.”