Sheps looking to be back amongst the goals
Report by David Brenchley
Page last updated at 4:13PM BST, Wednesday, 20 August 2014
Gemma Shepherd hopes the Charlton women’s team’s attacking strength will fire them up the table – but any talk of promotion to the FA Women’s Super League (FAWSL) is firmly ‘in the background’.
The Addicks get their FA Women’s Premier League (FAWPL) South campaign underway on Sunday with a trip to Keynsham Town.
For Shepherd, it will be ‘closure’ – her first competitive game for 11 months after being sidelined with an ACL injury suffered just two games into the last campaign.
And, after watching strike partners Sam Pittuck and Kit Graham bag 27 goals between them in all competitions, she is relishing the chance to contribute to what will be a potent attacking line up.
Shepherd, who has scored 12 goals in five pre-season friendlies, is looking forward to ‘linking up with Sam and Kit’.
She said: “The new formation’s a bit trial and error at this stage but they are both very intelligent players who are both on my wavelength.
“They are both very good technically as well going forward so people will be scared of us, particularly when you have other players like Emma [Harrison] and Sophie [Blowers] - there’s an abundance of players who can cause you problems and it’s nice to be a part of that.
“It’s nice that the goals are coming from everywhere, we can score goals from midfield and we’ve got defenders that can do damage at set pieces.”
One motivation for Shepherd and her team mates is the possibility of promotion to the FAWSL 2, the second tier of women’s football in this country.
So far the top two divisions have been a closed shop to what amounts to 98% of clubs in England and it was expected to be that way until 2018.
However, in the close season the FA agreed to open up promotion earlier than expected – with one team going up this season and one team the next.
Promotion will be decided by a two-legged play off between the winner of the FAWPL South and the FAWPL North and will be subject to the club meeting FAWSL criteria.
Shepherd acknowledged that is something to aim for but she says the club will learn from last year, when it was almost taken for granted they would win the FAWPL South – they finished fifth.
“I don’t know if complacency is the right word,” she added, “but we were a bit carried away with ‘because we kept the same team from the division above, by rights we should [win the league]’.
“That’s always a dangerous way to approach anything. It’s hard to look past Brighton this season because you know who they’ve signed and you know what they’re about.
“Portsmouth are going to be strong too – it’s a competitive league so, as much as we know promotion is there, we know that every week’s going to be an absolute slog.
“[Promotion] is a carrot but it’s a carrot that’s in the background and I think if we keep it like that we put ourselves in good stead.
“Even winning the league doesn’t guarantee you’re going to go up because you’ve got to then play the Northern winners and we know they’re very strong.
“It’s a long season and we’ll keep that in mind but I think we’ll just do it chunk by chunk and try to chip away at each Sunday as it comes.”