Tag Archives: Womens Football

Charlton legend Clifford juggling relegation battle with her day job

Although more female footballers are turning professional as the women’s game grows, tackling the twin demands of a full-time job and a playing career is common for those at FA Women’s Championship level.

One such player is Charlton Athletics’s Charley Clifford, who works for a motor finance company by day and joins up with her Addicks team-mates in the evening.

“I am in the office at eight every morning, and I leave about half four, or whenever I can get out, and then it is straight to training and then we don’t finish until at least 10pm,” the 27-year-old explains.

“If we can get on the pitches earlier, then we may leave earlier but it is always a late night and we do it again the next day.”

Clifford’s brother Tom plays for Southend United under Sol Campbell, but the Gravesend-born midfielder has her cousins to thank for introducing her to the game.

“They got me into football. I was put in goal in the back garden, they would kick balls at me as training, despite one of them being a keeper themselves, which is funny when you look back at it. From there, I initially joined my local boys’ team, and haven’t looked back since.”

Clifford has a great eye for goal, with 64 to her name for the Addicks. Last season, she established a formidable partnership with Kit Graham, however, she originally played in defence as a youngster.

“I just fell into this position, really. When we first started playing on 11-a-side pitches, I was played at right-back, but after a while I was moved into the centre of the park and have stayed there ever since, though I would be happy to play anywhere that the gaffer puts me.”

Support

Growing up, the Addicks star was supported by her parents as they juggled watching her and her brother make a career for themselves in football.

“Both my parents have sacrificed a lot, taking me and my brother to matches. My dad used to take me to all my games, but since my brother has gone pro, my mum has been watching mine more. Ours are on a Sunday, so it means they can both watch us as we now play on different days.”

Charlton commemorated Clifford’s 200th appearance

Making over 250 appearances in the famous red and white shirt, Clifford is a player who her younger team-mates look up to.

“We have got a very young team and everyone has got a lot of learning to do including me, even though people say ‘you’ve got all the experience’. I have, but I’ve still got learn how to deal with the younger players. With the fans, you don’t realise that all the young girls look up to you until you see their faces when they come to games.”

With seven matches left this season, Charlton are rooted to the bottom of the table on seven points, two off Lewes Women and Coventry City Ladies. The rest of the campaign is about belief if the Addicks are going to beat the drop.

Struggle

With only one victory all season – a 1-0 win over London City Lionesses in the Conti Cup Group stage back in November – Charlton have it all to do if they want to retain their Championship spot next season. However, Clifford believes they can still achieve that aim.

“I feel we can get out of this situation as the points difference isn’t huge, so if we can just win some of our remaining games then we will be fine. We will not want it to go down to the last game of the season because the pressure is just too much. The losing feeling isn’t a great one, especially when you have come out on top and that feeling is like nothing else. Touch wood, I have never suffered a relegation.”

Charley Clifford goes for goal against Crystal Palace Ladies in 2019

With a whole host of players coming and going, Charlton’s team chemistry took a hit, and the midfielder believes this has played a part in the team’s shortcomings this season.

“At the start of the season, we had 14 new players, and to gel with that many new people is hard and it takes more than a season. Playing with Kit Graham and Charlotte Gurr for the last few years, it has taken me at least this year to get on the same wavelength and gel with my new team-mates.”

This turnover of players is something that is common practice in the women’s game, with most teams getting several new faces during the season. For Clifford, it’s a case of getting used to all the changes happening around her.

“People jump from club to club, so there will be people that might be your friend from other teams you were in. You might go out for dinner with them one night and then the next day you might be on the pitch against them. You have to play for the team and put aside any personal relationships when on the pitch.”

Career

Clifford has achieved a lot since making her debut for the Addicks, playing for England at youth level and gaining promotion twice.

“When we won the league in 2017/2018, that was a pretty special moment as it was a really good season and everyone gelled together really well. The play-off match when we beat Blackburn Rovers was just unreal and it got us to the league we are in now. The feeling you get from being promoted on unbelievable.”

Riteesh Mishra joined as first-team coach in 2017 and has made a big impression on the midfielder’s footballing life.

“He brings new ideas, I like the way that he coaches, and I like that he goes down into the details. Also, his encouragement on the sidelines is massive and for us where we are at right now – we just need the encouragement rather than a battering.

“I feel like I have been coached really well in the last couple of years and I have learned a lot about the game, and that is largely down to him.”

Clifford in action against Gillingham back in 2014

The women’s game is seemingly going from strength to strength, with interest, attendances and media coverage increasing steadily, and Clifford says this bodes well for young girls who see football as their future.

“For the young girls coming through now, everything is in place for them to become professional footballers. When I was a kid that never was a thing, but now as a young girl, that should be every young girl’s dream to be a professional and I think more and more clubs are going to become professional. The women’s game could become massive as long as the money gets pumped into it.”

Charlton next play at The Oakwood on Sunday, 15 March 2020, when they take on eighth-placed Crystal Palace in a vital relegation six-pointer.

All images courtesy of Charlton Athletic Women’s photographer Keith Gillard. Find his photos at: https://topsnapper.photoshelter.com/index

Hegerberg controversy shows how far women’s game still has to go

Ada Hegerberg, Alex Morgan, Lieke Martens, Lucy Bronze – as the fortunes of women’s football continue to rise, so does the profile of its leading players. 

In a world where calls for gender equality grow increasingly louder in all aspects of our lives, the current wave of feminism is having a big impact of sport in general, and football in particular.

More young girls now wear club shirts with the names of their favourite female stars emblazoned proudly on the back, where once it would have been their male counterparts.

As the women’s game grows, aspiring female footballers can look up to those players as role models for who and what they want to be.

Many of Europe’s leading clubs are now taking big steps forward in terms of nurturing and developing young players who can make it to the top in women’s football.

The likes of FC Barcelona’s Claudia Pina (born in 2001) and Manchester City’s Georgia Stanway (born in 1999) are part of a new generation being given opportunities to shine at the highest level.

Carlota Benet recently signed her first professional contract at Pallejà, who play in the Spanish Women’s Super League 2.

The 17-year-old told me: “Young girls now see football as a unisex game, and more of them are deciding they want to be part of a team. Little by little, women’s football is becoming a mass sport in its own right.

“When people get involved in this kind of things and society sees it, it creates a push towards investment in new projects to help its development, and this is giving women’s football the push it needs towards becoming more professional.”

Pina’s progress

The recent Under-17 Women’s World Cup, hosted by Uruguay, offered a reflection on how women’s football is improving and growing in stature on the global stage.

It showcased the talents of young players from around the world, none more so than Barcelona’a Pina, who inspired Spain to become world champions for the first time in this age category, beating Mexico 2-1 in the final, and played great football throughout the tournament.

Pina’s amazing skills and growing maturity have already seen her jump into Barca’s first team to play alongside established internationals such as Toni Duggan or Lieke Martens.

As well as skippering Spain to success in Uruguay, the 17-year-old was also crowned player of the tournament and was its second top scorer behind Mukarama Abdulai of Ghana.

Benet added: “Some years ago, when talking about the Spanish women’s national team, they could not be compared to the likes of Japan or the USA, but now the footballers here are seen as professionals with a really well-developed background, and they can make their mark on today’s game.

“To see Spain U17s beating the former world champions North Korea on their way to winning the tournament gives our football a chance to succeed.”

Improvements

She is not wrong. With France hosting the World Cup next summer, the spotlight in women’s football is now firmly on Europe.

Increasingly, the world’s best players are joining the continent’s leading clubs, and Europe’s most exciting young talents are pursuing their dreams at home, instead of heading for the United States and its well-funded college sports system.

Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg

The organisations and clubs are making big improvements, although there is still a lot left to be done.

For example, just as football finally got round to creating a Ballon d’Or award for the best female player, its first recipient, Ada Hegerberg, was left embarrassed at the ceremony.

The 23-year-old Olympique Lyon and Norway striker was asked by the host, DJ Martin Solveig, if she knew how to twerk.

His attempt at humour was widely criticised as pathetic and ridiculous, but it only served to show how that the fight against sexism in football is far from over.

After the ceremony, Hegerberg did her best to leave the controversy behind, saying: “I’m extremely proud to win this trophy. This is a reward for all the hard work the team puts in. Today is a very emotional day. It’s historic. It was a big night for women’s football.”

Potential

Surely, the 2019 Women’s World Cup is the perfect opportunity to show the world how far the women’s game has come, particularly in Europe, and why its players deserve to have the same rights and be treated with equal respect.

Benet summed things up: “Germany, England or Spain are now top national teams. Girls no longer have international players from outside Europe as their idols, but ones from here.

“It makes me so happy to see a girl wearing a Fran Kirby or Alexia Putellas shirt. But it would make me so much happier if women’s games attracted the same level of attendance as men’s, if female players could earn the same amount of money, or if they could have the same rights as all professional athletes.”

Yes, big improvements have been made, but women’s football still has some way to go to achieve its full potential as a global sport on a par with the men’s game.

Lloyd signing will boost quality of women’s game, says Oatley

Manchester City’s signing of USA star Carli Lloyd can only boost the standard of women’s football in England, says Jacqui Oatley.

Lloyd, 34, has joined the reigning Women’s Super League 1 champions on a short-term deal from Houston Dash.

The two-time World Player of the Year, double Olympic gold medallist and World Cup winner has expressed her ambition to lift the Women’s Champions League trophy.

TV sports presenter and Women In Football board member Oatley told Elephant Sport: “These top international signings are only going to improve the quality of our game.”

Business

Oatley said Lloyd’s recruitment shows that Manchester City, backed by owner Sheikh Mansour’s huge wealth, are ambitious to succeed in women’s football.

“I just hope clubs continue to develop their own players and give their young British players a chance”

“I do admire the Manchester City roots, and everything I hear about them is that they are doing it for the right reasons, they take it seriously,” said the ITV Sport anchor.

“For branding and marketing reasons why not [sign Lloyd]? Football is a business, but City do see women as very much part of that.”

She also believes Lloyd’s drive and dedication will raise the bar for her new team-mates.

Professionalism

“[Lloyd] mixing with the England players in particular in that team is only going to help them with their professionalism.

“When they talk to her, when they have meals with her, when they train with her, see what she does. She’s the captain of the best team in the world, and players like that are a great signing.”

Oatley presented the BBC’s coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in which England beat rivals Germany 1-0 in extra time to win bronze – their most successful tournament to date.

Although she welcomes Lloyd’s signing, she added: “I just hope clubs continue to develop their own players and give their young British players a chance.”

Eagles spurred to first win by sudden death of club founder

Letchworth Eagles Ladies paid a fitting tribute to club founder Vince Paige by gaining their first points of the season with a 3-0 win over Sandy Ladies.

Their fine victory over the table-toppers came just days after Paige, who established the Eagles in 1979, died from a heart attack.

A statement on the club’s website said: “How do you replace the irreplaceable? Vince will be sadly missed by his many friends in the football world.”

All three senior Letchworth teams won their respective games over the weekend following Paige’s death.

Every single Letchworth side – men, women, boys and girls of all age groups – started their games with a minute’s silence followed by a minute’s applause in his memory.

Momentum

The Eagles, who hadn’t won or drawn in their previous eight matches, started strongly against Sandy with a strike from Amy Atsma after just 10 minutes.

The black-and-blues kept up the momentum and continued to pile the pressure on the league leaders, who had only lost once going into this fuxture.

Two more goals followed in the second half. Ellie Watson slotted home just after the hour mark, and Louise Mylles sealed their first win of the season in the 85th minute, showing quick reactions following a saved shot.

Sandy came up against an Eagles backline in resolute form, and Letchworth manager Warren Shimell said: “That’s why I run a team, for days like today.

“On the way out, their manager came over to me and said he hasn’t met a defence like ours all season. It was such a solid performance from everyone in every position.”

Letchworth’s captain Tasha Reynolds added: “The win was more than deserved, and I’m very excited to see what we can pull out of the bag for the rest of the season.”

Elephant Sport Podcast – Women’s Football Special

In this edition of the Elephant Sport podcast, reporters Daniel Racheter and Shan Gambling discuss women’s football with Millwall Lionesses player Leanne Cowan.

Ahead of the upcoming Women’s European Championships in Holland this summer, Leanne gives her views on England’s chances after so nearly reaching the World Cup final two years ago.

Also discussed is the calendar changes that are set to go ahead for the Women’s Super League, moving the season to match the men’s calendar, running across the winter months.

Catch January’s Elephant Sport podcast here:

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