Training in a public park, wearing borrowed kit and unable to use their traditional home ground, but still with dreams… ANDREW SINCLAIR reports on how a once great football club is slowly rebuilding itself
Two decades after being disbanded, Croydon Women’s Football Club, once one of the leaders of the women’s game in England, are back with a senior team and hoping to regain their place in the domestic game.
Led by Jason Casey, the club raised an under-18s side and competed in 2019-2020 at county level. But they have now applied successfully to become members of the Greater London Women and Girls Football League (GLWFL) as an open age team. Now Croydon WFC, who for the timebeing are to play their home games at Club Langley in Beckenham, will kick off their first season in the GLWFL Division 2 South on September 13.
The fixtures are yet to be released, but Sutton United Academy and AFC Wimbledon are promotion favourites in a league that also contains South London Reserves, Westside, Wandsworth Borough, AFC Acorns and Molesey.
Croydon started their pre-season campaign earlier this month when Jenny Brown scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Woking.
The Croydon side might have been mistaken for Carlisle United that day: they played the game in borrowed kit due to the late arrival of their shirts and shorts for the new season.
Speaking to Inside Croydon, Casey seems happy with the squad he’s got and is hopeful that they can make the transition from youth football to the senior game.
“The squad is shaping up well. We have retained the majority from last season’s under-18s and added some more experienced players,” he said.
“We are still looking to bolster the squad although we have been very pleased with the aptitude and attitude of the current players. We struggled last season when a couple got injured or left to play at a higher level.
“Last season we set up as an under-18s team as there was a demand for that age. Now most of the players are 18 or over, and we have progressed into women’s football.
“We wanted to get Croydon Women’s FC back into the world of football to reignite the amazing legacy that Hope Powell, Debbie Bampton et al created from 1994 to 2000 at the Arena, winning the FA Cup twice and League title three times.
“Croydon was the home of women’s football in England and we want to bring it here again.”
The club was formed in 1991 as Bromley Borough, before becoming Croydon WFC in 1994. They were to become one of the country’s best teams, winning League and FA Cup Doubles in 1996 and 2000 and completing a hugely impressive unbeaten campaign in 1999.
Among those to have featured for Croydon’s trailblazers were Pauline Cope, Debbie Bampton, Brenda Sempare and Hope Powell – all of whom have since been inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
Indeed, Croydon supplied six of the England team that took part in the 1995 World Cup, and Powell, of course, went on to manage the England team with some considerable success.
The 2020 Croydon side has now started midweek training sessions and are in the process of organising an awards event for last season’s under-18s side.
They have three more pre-season friendlies arranged – against Bromley on August 23, Junior Red Girls (Aug 30) and Phoenix Sports (Sep 6).
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