Kit looking forward to the challenge
Report by David Brenchley
Page last updated at 11:47AM UTC, Friday, 08 August 2014
Kit Graham believes the Charlton women’s team will benefit from having more competition for places in the forthcoming FA Women’s Premier League season.
And, despite a stellar season that concluded with being named the Addicks’ Player of the Year, Graham is even worried about her place in the team, with the likes of Gemma Shepherd and Jenny Newman* back from lengthy injuries.
The Addicks returned from a pre-season training camp in Portugal on Monday and are looking formidable, defeating Portuguese top-division side Belenenses 4-0 in a friendly on Sunday.
Despite still having a relatively long injury list, Graham believes the squad is in better shape than ever ahead of a season that it is hoped will end in promotion to the FA Women’s Super League.
She said: “[Pre-season] is going well, it’s hard as always but I personally feel much fitter than I was last season and it looks like everyone else is in better shape so the season’s looking promising already.
“With Jenny and Sheps back, you can already see the training is so much harder, they are putting it in. They look fit and I think that’s encouraging for everyone else to get fit and stay fit to try to keep their place.
“I still feel confident but with Sheps and Jenny coming back, they are obviously natural strikers so I’m a bit worried about my place but that’s striving me on to do better.
“I think Stu was saying about two up top and one behind so hopefully I will keep my place – we’ll just have to see how pre-season goes.”
Graham had a stellar season last year, netting 15 goals in all competitions, including the winning goal in the Capital Cup final against Queens Park Rangers.
At just 18 years old, Graham looks to be coming of age and fulfilling the potential that prompted former Charlton manager Paul Mortimer to hand her her debut aged just 16 years and 16 days back in 2011.
But the attacker didn’t get off to a flyer from day one, and admitted she struggled at the start of the season, playing in midfield or out on the wings.
And it was the player herself that instigated a change in the way the team plays, with manager Stuart Weston agreeing to push her forward alongside striker Sam Pittuck for the second half of the campaign.
That change led to Graham being more able to dictate the tempo in the final third and Chatham-born youngster looked dangerous every time she touched the ball.
The new role yielded a number of skilful finishes, seeing her end up as the team’s top goalscorer as well as Player of the Year.
“I think I scored in the first couple of games and then I went on a drought,” she added. “I spoke to Stuart and he started giving me attacking roles and the goals started going.
“I just said I wasn’t happy – I was playing on the wing and I think he could see that I wasn’t myself so he changed me to the other side and I still wasn’t myself so I asked if he could put me in more of a striking role or centre midfield and he gave me the chance to do that.
“I was really down actually, at the start of the season, I didn’t feel myself at all but the girls were all really encouraging and getting my confidence back was the key.”
As well as the tangible on-field impact, the suggestion of the tactical switch suggests a footballing intelligence that belies Graham’s tender age.
Shepherd’s return from injury, and the goals she will surely bring with her, will be a big boost to the manager, but it will be Graham’s continued resurgence that could play a bigger part in the Addicks’ successes this term.
* This interview was conducted with Kit before the team went to Portugal where Jenny Newman was injured during our match. At the moment we do not know the extent of Jenny's injury and we wish her a speedy recovery).