Charley joins the Addicks 100 Club
Report by David Brenchley
Page last updated at 3:39PM UTC, Thursday, 06 November 2014
Having made a century of appearances for the Charlton women’s team earlier this season, midfielder Charley Clifford recently spoke to us about her time at the club.
Clifford, who has been at the Addicks since the age of 12, is one of the most promising young players to have come through the club’s youth teams for a number of years.
Paul Mortimer gave the now 21 year old her first-team league debut at the tender age of 16, in a 1-0 away loss to Queens Park Rangers.
Justifying her manager’s decision to fast-track her into the side and putting in some impressive performances that belied her young age, Clifford’s rise to prominence then took her on to the international stage.
The Gravesend-born midfielder received her first call up to the England under 19 squad aged 17 and a half, making her debut for the Three Lions in a friendly against Denmark, then facing Ireland.
At the end of 2010, she helped the team to two friendly wins over then European Champions France, before making her competitive debut as a 75th minute substitute in a 3-0 European Championship win over Portugal.
Since that whirlwind first couple of years as a senior player, she has clocked up 100 matches in all competitions for Charlton scoring 13 goals in the process.
Speaking about her first taste of senior football, she said: “It was difficult because even though I was training Tuesday and Thursday with the reserves it’s still completely different to the first team.
“But I did know most of the girls anyway and they all made me feel welcome.
“It was a bit daunting to begin with because you don’t know that routine of getting changed and everything before the game to the extent the first team do.
“The game was a lot more physical so I had to adapt but Paul helped me to do that and then I progressed from then.
“Playing in the first team from such an early age did help me to develop my physical attributes.”
On her experience with England, she added: “It’s completely different from club football, it’s hard to explain to people what to expect but it’s really fun. If anyone gets the opportunity to go, just play your best and have fun.”
As with a number of current Charlton players, many of whom were around during the 2010/11 season, Clifford’s choice of most-memorable moment is an easy one: “It has to be winning the league,” she said.
Just three years after the club was relegated from the FA Women’s Premier League (FAWPL) National Division, the Addicks were able to regain their position in that league.
A young, rebuilt side led by Katie Flack edged out Cardiff City on goal difference to win the FAWPL South and win promotion to the National Division.
Clifford played 15 times that league campaign, contributing two goals and, looking back on that moment, she recalled: “That season was a really good season for us as a club.
“As a team in that season I felt that everyone was working for everyone, which was a great thing. It is something you will never forget.”
The class of 2014/15 will be hoping to repeat that feat, this time with the chance of winning promotion into the fledgling FA Women’s Super League Division Two.
An impressive start sees Charlton currently sitting just one point behind the three teams that count themselves as joint league leaders, Cardiff, Portsmouth and Brighton and Hove Albion.
And it is a similar-looking squad to the one that first achieved promotion, with Clifford, Flack, Grace Coombs, Kim Dixson, Katie Hardaker, Megen Lynch, and Stef Simmons all playing a part in both campaigns.
Clifford has now joined Flack, Dixson and Lynch in the Charlton women’s 100 club, and Coombs is just three games away, with Simmons not too far behind.
Clifford believes that continuity is key for the Addicks and hopes they can now push on.
“As long as we can keep this group together, those three have already done it [hit 100 appearances] and a few players are coming up to it or hitting just over 50, which is still a big achievement.
“We have been playing well so far this season and as long as we can get players to do that and stay here, hopefully we can produce as a team as well.”