Following a third place finish in the London & South East Regional Women’s Football League, as well as reaching two cup finals, Crawley Wasps search for promotion during their 2017/18 campaign. Last season, Leyton Orient topped the table with an impressive forty nine points; the side boasted sixteen wins, taking one draw and only suffering one league defeat throughout the whole season. London Kent Football United claimed second place, trailing behind the winners by eight points. Crawley Wasps were only two points adrift of the runners up, drawing one additional game and winning one less.
Ahead of the new season, BOTN spoke to Paul Walker- manager of Crawley Wasps- to discuss the club’s pre-season and their aims for 2017/18.
Q. Firstly, can you talk us through your pre-season campaign?
We played five pre-season games, all against Women’s Premier League opposition. It tested us against our goal of playing higher level football in the near future. It gave us a benchmark of the quality of the squad that we are assembling, being able to compete at that level.
We selected three WPL South teams, including Gillingham, Portsmouth and West Ham United. The other two were WPL South East teams, including Maidenhead and Southampton. We won three of the five games, losing two, which was a good benchmark for us. In one of those games, we were chasing the game and our ladies were quite disappointed to lose. The other three games, however, were very convincing wins.
Q. How have you strengthened your squad over the summer?
The squad is probably as strong as it has ever been, with four or five new players coming in and retaining some of the players that we really wanted to retain. Another significant thing for the team is that we have started training two nights per week. The second training session is for strength and conditioning; we have hired a new coach to support these sessions. In addition, we have secured a brilliant partnership with Cottesmore Hotel Golf Country Club. In return, they have given us access to their gym on a Thursday evening for the ladies first team.
Q. By adding in those extra sessions and securing a new sponsor, have you seen a significant difference in the team’s performance over the summer?
Since we started the sessions about five weeks ago, it is still early days, but we have started to see early benefits of our work at the Cottesmore facilities. We decided to move to this because, when competing against teams at a higher level, we sometimes struggled to compete physically. As part of preparing ourselves for higher football, we have created this arrangement. We expect to see significant benefits of our training this season.
Q. Your aim is to compete at a higher level of football- which clubs do you think will pose a threat to your ambition this season?
The obvious one would be London Corinthians, who have had a very strong side for the last three or four years. For the past two years, they have finished as runners-up in our league. They are always a good, competitive side and we expect them to be strong in the league this year. There are two newly promoted sides that we do not know too much about. Carshalton are another side that have been very strong in previous seasons. Although, like ourselves, they face competition for players in their area due to higher level clubs.
Q. Ahead of these matches against promotion rivals, what will you say to your players?
We will certainly do our homework in advance of the fixtures against these clubs, especially London Corinthians. We do know a fair bit about them and their squad at the moment, but what we will do is refresh our intelligence on them.
Q. What are your thoughts ahead of your first fixture?
We encounter AFC Phoenix this Sunday, one of the newly promoted sides. We do not know a huge amount about them, but we expect them to be a strong, physical side and will prepare accordingly. I am hoping that, with the squad that we have assembled and our home advantage, we should have a competitive edge going into the game.
Full reaction of the game to follow. Dara Wilson.