With pre-season underway, in regards to the men's team it feels a little like the calm before the storm.
AWB's departure has already been confirmed, and the exit of Zaha looks a real possibility too. This means that a squad which already needed a fair amount of investment, now needs more, and there is no sign of it coming yet. While things are slow on the men's front though, on the women's side of the game it has been anything but.
Last summer was quite possibly the biggest in CPLFC history, being promoted to the Women's Championship(albeit at the last minute). This summer though, is already shaping up to be an even bigger one, and quite possibly a summer that could prove pivotal in the clubs future.
For a start, CPLFC is no longer. It was announced a month or so ago that from this season onwards, our ladies team would no longer be Crystal Palace Ladies FC, but instead go by the title Crystal Palace FC. Now, I am sure that some will have seen that and wondered why it really mattered. Well, I can't speak on behalf of the club, but I can give my own opinion on it. For a long time, CPFC and CPLFC were completely different entities. I believe it has only been in recent times that the two have started to move closer together. CPLFC was its own 'brand' to use an American term, which in some ways was a positive thing as it provided identity, but in others it could be seen as negative as it left the club isolated from any benefits that may come the way of CPFC. Now though, I hope that will change. Any sponsorship, any legal matters, would always be for CPFC, which I would imagine made it difficult to incorporate the ladies. However, I am hoping that by being under one title, any benefits that come the way of CPFC, can come the way of both the men and the women. I may be totally wrong on that, but I am hoping it is the case. One thing I do know in regards to the clubs view on it though, is that it reaffirms the belief they have been pushing, of 'One Club.' All season they have been promoting that ideal, and this change helps make it more of a reality. We have already seen promotional work incorporating both the men and women of our club, and the Player of the Year awards have merged together too. This move helps make the point that we are all Crystal Palace! I will say though, it will take a little getting used to on social media, although the club have confirmed that on social media it will go by Crystal Palace Women.
Then of course, there is big matter of incomings and outgoings. The late league switch last summer had left us unprepared for a higher level, and while every single one of our players battled brilliantly all season long, we still finished second to bottom. Our aspirations are higher for the coming season. We don't want to be in a relegation battle, we want to be higher up the table(can I whisper promotion push} and to achieve this, the squad needs refreshing. We need to build on the foundations we have, and add a bit more quality to help kick us on. We also need to find replacements for those who have parted ways with the club, of which there has been a few.
There have been a few notable exits from the first team squad. The first of those to announce they were leaving was defender Pam McRoberts. Pam has been a club stalwart, and is highly thought of and respected by fans and players alike. She did not always feature last season, but when she pulled on the red and blue, she was a warrior in our backline, as everyone had been accustomed too. However, Pam is leaving the club to focus on raising her family, but is still aiming to attend games as a fan. Next up to announce her departure was Leesa Haydock. After four years dedicated service with the club, she has decided it is time for a new challenge in her career. Going by Twitter, I believe that fan favourite Megan Lynch, who had owned the number one jersey priory to a season ending injury, is also leaving the club, but I can't confirm anything more on that at this time. Meanwhile, Charmaine True, who was a scoring sensation in the reserves last year and broke into the senior team for a few games, has also departed the club, opting to return to former club Portsmouth. Finally, I would like to mention the departure of Lauren-Amie Allen, who has moved to Norway to fulfil the dream of a full time playing career. She has joined Tindastoll FC, and has made a strong start to her new journey. Hopefully full time is something our club will be able to offer in the not too distant future.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of these ladies, who have worked their socks off for our football club, giving it 110% every single day, despite facing the uphill battle that the women's game sadly has had to face. We are proud to have seen you all in the famous red and blue, and we wish you all the best of luck for what you do next.
While there have been outgoings, we have also seen three early arrivals. Like London buses, two came at the same time. The first of those is Leeta Rutherford, a player who fits in midfield and defence. She has made the move from fellow Championship side Lewes, and featured in both games against us last season. The second of those is centre back Amy Goddard. Amy made 14 appearances for Super League side Yeovil Town last season, as financial struggles saw them get relegated. Now she aims to bounce straight back, only in the red and blue instead of green and white. Then, by the end of the week, a third addition had been made, as Republic of Ireland international Cherelle Khassal signed on the dotted line. Cherelle makes the step up from Chichester City, where she scored 18 goals last season.
For our new arrivals, I would like to take this
opportunity to say welcome to the club, and we look forward to seeing you play.
As Palace fans, all we ask of you is to fight for the shirt, as your teammates
do, and you will fit in nicely. We have the best atmosphere n the league, you
are going to love it!
So, changes are taking place, and I believe further signings could be possible. With the ladies back in training, the pre-season games will begin soon, as we prepare for our second season in the Championship. Could this season be one for glory? Well, it all stars with the visit of newly promoted Coventry United on Sunday 18th August. Some other key dates for the diary, see us play home london derbies against the London Bees on the 27th October, newly re-branded London City Lionesses on 17th November, and Charlton on 1st December.
The recent World Cup, and a third successive
Semi Final for our England Lionesses, has generated a huge buzz around the
women's game, and some momentum too. Let's hope that not only continues, but
spreads to the domestic game as well. I hope that we get to see more of you
down at Hayes Lane this season, giving the girls the support they deserve! Come
On You Palace!