Gemma - now our aim is to win the league
Report by David Brenchley
Page last updated at 1:14PM BST, Monday, 25 May 2015
Gemma Shepherd believes the sheer number of matches played by the Charlton women’s team this season stopped them from achieving their overall goal, to challenge for the FA Women’s Premier League (FAWPL) title and promotion to the FA Women’s Super League.
However, Shepherd says the Addicks will be back next season, and set out her ambitions for the campaign – to win the FAWPL title.
Despite collecting three trophies this season, Charlton eventually fell eight points short of champions Portsmouth, and effectively five points behind runners up Brighton and Hove Albion.
Victories in the FA Women’s Premier League Cup, Ryman Cup and Capital Cup finals, against Sheffield FC, Tottenham and West Ham respectively, though, made up for that and ensured a successful year.
On the 2014/15 season as a whole, Shepherd drew a comparison with teams in the men’s game like Everton, who have been affected this season by their Europa League adventure.
She said: “I just think the volume of games did us in and it just meant that we weren’t able to fight on all the fronts we would have wanted to.
“It’s very much like men’s football when they’re competing in Europe: if you don’t have a large squad to draw from, there just comes a point when everyone has nothing left to give and I think that was our problem.
“Particularly with the West Ham game recently when we played them at their place [and drew 0-0], it was evident that week the culmination of all the games just got to everyone.
“It’s those games where normally you’d be able to unpick the lock at some point but there was just nothing there and there’s nothing you can do about that.
“On one hand it has been a fantastic season but there is a tinge of disappointment with our league position. I think that’s what our focus is going to be for next season and we’re in a much better position to go and do that now.”
The club’s ambitions for the 2014/15 season were fuelled by news that one FAWPL club would be able to attain FAWSL2 status through promotion for the first time ever – an honour that eventually went to Sheffield FC, who defeated Portsmouth 1-0 in a play off match on Sunday.
After a promising start to the campaign, with 12-1 and 5-0 wins over Keynsham Town and QPR, Charlton were brought back down to earth with a bang due to two defeats on the spin
Those two away losses, 5-2 and 2-1 against Spurs and Portsmouth respectively, were followed shortly by a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Brighton and a 3-3 draw at home to West Ham before the Christmas break.
Those results seemed to halt the club’s charge for promotion, as they dropped only four points in the final nine games of the season.
And Shepherd praised caretaker duo Jeremy Parsons and Michael Paye, who oversaw wins against some of the best clubs in the FAWPL (Portsmouth, Brighton, Cardiff, Sheffield and Coventry City), as well as a narrow penalty shootout loss to FAWSL2 title contenders Everton in the FA Cup.
“I think one of the biggest things for us was to try and get a settled 11 and nail down a plan of how we want to play,” Shepherd added.
“We had the objective of going up but it turned into a bit of a transitional season just because personnel came in and went out and there’s been a lot of upheaval.
“But with Jel coming in, I think he’s done a fantastic job and Michael’s helped out really well and we’ve managed to establish a way of playing; basically having solutions to problems we have been presented with and we’ve done that well now.
“You never know who you’re going to get in [during pre-season] but we just want to keep the core of players we’ve got and maybe make one or two additions and I think that’ll make the difference.”
Looking forward to the forthcoming season, Shepherd believes the club can now have one aim, having already tasted success in every other competition they have entered, including a run to the FA Cup quarter finals.
She explained: “Because we’ve had such a brilliant run with the cups, because we’ve kind of done that now, particularly with the League Cup, there’s not that same allure next season to win it. We can almost disregard the cups.
“Realistically, we want to plough all our efforts into winning the league because it’s what everyone here has worked so hard for, it’s what the fans want, it’s what the management want – the whole infrastructure is there for us to go and make that jump.
“You don’t want to sound too cocky but if we don’t win it next year, anything else would be a disappointment.”