With the National Lockdown causing a pause to the National League Season, with thanks to the diligence of Paul Farley and the Grecian Archive, we are able to take the time to look back on those players who have played a crucial role in the development of Exeter City’s Women’s Team.
This week it is one of the Club’s all-time Record Goal scorers, Helen Kukor.
Helen arrived at Exeter in the summer of 2010. After leaving University she was on the hunt for a Club and, with friends already involved with the Grecians, she was able to participate in pre season and sign for the Club. This was the Steve Tully era and, under his management, the Women’s Team made big strides. Helen would start her City career with a goal in a 3-1 Home Victory over Charlestown.
Playing as part of Tully’s team was certainly something Helen enjoyed. "Don’t tell him I said this, but he was brilliant. As a coach he was awesome, he used his extensive knowledge of the game to improve us, both as individual players, and as a team. On a personal level his management was excellent, he always knew what to say to get the best out of us and that included knowing when to have a bit of a shout!"
The first season was a resounding success. Helen scored eight goals to help the team to Promotion, a third in successive seasons. City also won the Bristol SoccerWorld Cup Final, beating Plymouth Argyle Reserves 3-2. The move up a division in 2011 would lead to more success, Helen hit twelve goals in an impressive partnership with Lola Garcia Sanchez as City won the League Title.
Promotion to the South West Combination Division saw a season of consolidation in League Football, but a highly successful season of Cup Football. City made it to the Second Round of the FA Cup and played their first round fixture at St James Park. "It was a huge step forward for the Ladies presence at the Club. I can remember being really excited about playing on a pitch that didn’t look like a ploughed field! It was just a really nice feeling to be included like that by the Club."
Whilst the FA Cup run ended with a narrow defeat to Swindon Town, in the Devon County Cup, City would finally go all the way, beating rivals Plymouth Argyle in a tense final. In over six years of football for Exeter City, this is one of Helen’s fondest memories. “I think my favourite moment was winning the Devon County Cup. There were some cracking goals scored that day! It’s always nice to win a trophy but to do it against your local rivals makes it all the more sweeter. It was a great game too and really did a lot for women’s football at the time.”
City would endure a frustrating couple of seasons from 2013-2015, finishing twice runners up. Helen would again contribute goals, the 2013/2014 season seeing a career high of fifteen. Getting so close is still something that resonates with Helen. "It was super annoying. We had a lot of experience in the team and some excellent players. I think if we had a little more strength in depth then we really could have pushed on in the following season."
With 55 goals to her name, Helen departed City in 2016, heading firstly to Buckland and then to Alphington. In 2019, with the Grecians heading into the National League, she returned. On arriving back to Exeter City, Helen certainly noticed some differences. "There was a huge change. It was almost like a different club. As it had been under the wing of the Community guys for a little while, the whole atmosphere was more professional. The facilities, pitch and kit had all been upgraded and the attitude of the players had changed. I put that down to them being much younger!"
Helen now runs her own business, Kukor Coaching, working in her role as a Personal Trainer and offering plans to improve performance. Helen certainly feels that the Women’s game has developed a great deal since her early playing days. “I definitely do. The Academy at Exeter College is developing some great players and most of them are going on to play for local teams, as well as for City. Coupled with some new teams developing in Torbay and South Devon, the future of the game is looking really positive."
Former Manager Steve Tully enjoyed having Helen as part of his squad and acknowledges her contribution to the Football Club. "Helen was a dedicated, friendly, approachable player. She was always eager to learn and better herself at every opportunity. She kept herself in good shape and it was a pleasure to have her as part of my team."
Helen played 87 times for Exeter City, scoring 56 times. A six year career in Red and White saw two promotions and a Devon County Cup Victory. Helen was one of the key contributors to Exeter City’s rise in the Women’s game and her efforts have helped clear a path for those that have followed.