The newly reformed Croydon Women’s Football Club, once one of the forerunners of the English game, are hoping to regain their position in domestic football under the leadership of a woman.
Emma Bowell, 29, has just become the club’s new chair and is looking forward to the challenge of returning the club to its heyday when it was 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.
Croydon women were resurrected in 2019-20 as an under 18 team and this season have competed as an all ages side in the GLWFL South Division 2 where they currently sit fifth within a league of 12.
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.
Croydon supplied six of the England team that took part in the 1995 World Cup, with going on to manage the England team with some considerable success.
Emma’s love of women’s football began at primary school when pupils were given free tickets to watch the women’s World Cup games at Selhurst Park and for the last few seasons she has been an avid fan and season ticket holder at Chelsea FC Women.
Emma said: “Things are changing and we are definitely seeing more and more women stepping in to leadership positions not necessarily coaching or playing but more interested in the strategic side of the game. It is a really exciting time and I think it is important to have that representation in the game for women to be taking on these sorts of roles.
“It’s really good having been involved in the club last season as their player liaison officer and now having taking on a different role thinking about what we want to do over the course of the season, next season and beyond at a time which is exciting for women in football generally.
Emma said: “I would love to see us get back in to the FA Cup competition. I think it would be such a brilliant story to go from FA cup winners to the club being disbanded to the club coming back and being able to enter that competition. I am not expecting us to win the trophy in the next few years but just to be back in that would be an incredible ambition!”
Current Chairman Jason Casey, from Thornton Heath, is passing over the chair reigns but will remain as a coach with the club. He said: “There is a lack of women involved in women’s football behind the scenes. We hope to lead the transitions for providing opportunities for women within football to be more representative.”
Emma, whose day job is as a civil servant working for the Department of Education has never played football and admits to not being particularly athletic but: “very much enjoys sport as a fan.”
She added: “For me it is about solidifying where we are now as a club looking at how we can really develop our roots and expand the team. We are looking at different ways we might do that whether we look to have a youth team as well as the all ages team we have now. It has been particularly disruptive this season because of the pandemic so our primary ambition is just to establish a really strong first team where the players are happy to be there, feel supported and we are playing really good football. I think everyone involved in the club is onboard with that and that’s our primary goal.”
MP Sarah Jones is the honorary president of the club which this season has played at Beckenham Club Langley but hopes next season to return to playing at Croydon Arena.
Emma added: “We have a really good diverse team. It is a nice different experience for those players starting out aged 16, 17 right through to players in their 30’s who have been playing for a long time, so it is a good balance.
“Every game hasn’t been easy but we have got a committed group of players and coaches who want the best for the club and are prepared to put the work in but also a bunch of people who want to have fun and enjoy spending time with each other which I think at this level is what it is about.”
Croydon Women FC returned to football after a five month absence and were beaten by the much more alert Sporting Duet. The 5-0 result flattered their West London opponents as Croydon had the majority of possession.
All five goals were different, a header, a one on one, a long shot, a dribble and a far post tap-in. There were plenty of encouraging signs however for the future once players gel and get their match fitness up to speed.
The Trams were away at Molesey on Sunday before a home tie versus Civil Service on the April 25th.
If anyone is interested in a trial to play and is over 16, or wants to help with the organising or sponsoring of the club please visit: www.croydonwfc.co.uk