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Tottenham Hotspur Women v Charlton Athletic Women - FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup

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Lasses Fan Focus: Proud Valiant Sam updates us ahead of Charlton’s visit to Sunderland!

The second part of this week’s Sunderland-Charlton double-header is at Eppleton CW this afternoon, and we’ve asked Sam Clarke about how their FA Women’s Championship season is going so far.

Megan Wynne of Charlton during the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur Women and Charlton Athletic Women at The Hive on October 13, 2021 in Barnet, England.
| Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Roker Report: Hi Sam, thanks for agreeing to speak with us again. A lot has changed since Sunderland beat Charlton at the end of October – we’ve not won a league game and Charlton have only lost once in the Championship since. What’s behind the continued good form?

SC: Before Christmas you could tell we had a good set of players that were more than capable, but there was always just something missing. That final pass, or that brief lapse of concentration at the back.

Since the start of 2022, those things have been tightened up and at times, we’ve looked like we’d never concede and guaranteed to take at least one or two of the chances that we grafted for ourselves.

I think the noticeable thing has been that extra fitness that has been built over the first half of the season, the ability to be able to relentless press for the majority of the game, as well as some consistency with our personnel at the back.

Pretty much every game in 2022 has seen the consistent back line of Eartha Cumings in goal, Beth Roe and Jorja Fox at full back, Anna Filbey at the heart of the defence alongside either Hannah Godfrey or Kiera Skeels depending on the fitness/injury status of the former.

Wales v Kazakhstan - FIFA Women’s 2023 World Cup Qualifier
Anna Filbey during the pre-match warm-up during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying Round Group I match between Wales and Kazakhstan at Parc y Scarlets on September 17, 2021 in Llanelli, Wales.
Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images

RR: How has the transition to full-time gone for the women? Do you think the team has seen the benefits of professionalism?

SC: The benefits of the transition to proffesional status has definitely shown in our run of form, as stated above the fitness and ability to press is key to our success, something being full time allows the team to put a lot of work into.

A lot of the players stated the season with varying level of fitness, injuries, and recent history of playing time. Full time training has allowed them all to get fit, up to scratch and gel to build a really wonderful atmosphere amongst the squad.

RR: Who have been your top performers this season? Are there any youngsters who’ve broken through into the first team?

SC: When you look at how long we went without conceding prior to the most recent league fixture against Coventry, and notice that both Anna Filbey in defence and Eartha Cumings between the sticks have played every minute of league football this season; You can’t ignore the two of them as standouts.

Elise Hughes won the most recent Championship Player of the Month, and we always look a better side for having her leading the line. Jorja Fox has been extremely impressive ever since coming on loan from Chelsea. If I named every I think has been impressive I might be here a while.

A number of youngsters from our youth teams have been on the bench and featured in cup games, but none have regularly broke into the team. However, the average age of our squad overall is fairly young, with all the stand out performer I mentioned above being under 22 years old.

Arsenal v Chelsea: The Vitality Women’s FA Cup Final
Jorja Fox of Chelsea but now on loan at Charlton celebrates winning the Vitality Women’s FA Cup Final between Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC at Wembley Stadium on December 05, 2021 in London, England.
Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

RR: Last time we spoke you mentioned that has adopted a one club” approach to integrating the women’s team into Charlton Athletic properly. What has that meant in practice and what more needs to be done?

SC: From what we can see on the surface, it’s a lot of simple things like regularly highlighting the women’s game on the pre-shows of Charlton TV (the clubs streaming service), as well as ensuring all games that the club are allowed to stream are indeed streamed.

We’d love to see more done to include pre-shows on these streams like what is done with the men’s team, as well as perhaps taking an example from other clubs and allowing the women to play at the Valley for bigger games in the season.

We also see a lot of the women’s players getting to the Valley to support the men, I’d love to see the men get to the Oakwood and support the women.

Charlton Athletic v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One
Thomas Sandgaard, owner of Charlton Athletic plays the guitar
Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images

RR: At Sunderland, we often hear that the club cannot concentrate on the women’s team while we’re in League 1. As a fellow League 1 club, what do you think we can learn from Charlton, or would you rather see the men’s side battling for the playoffs?

SC: I don’t believe there has to be a choice of one or the other, the men’s team has been poor for far longer than the women’s team has started to find success thanks in part to the support of the club.

It might be the same man at the top, but there is enough staff where the women’s and the men’s side can operate independently but with support from the same ownership. The level of investment needed for success in the women’s game is pocket change compared to what is thrown around in the men’s game.

RR: Finally, our usual score prediction question. How do you see this game panning out?

SC: The performance we saw against Coventry wasn’t nearly as impressive as what we’ve grown used to since the turn of the year, so the hope is that was just an off day rather than the start of a dip in form.

I’m hoping for a professional away performance like we saw against Bristol City earlier in the year, one that would be enough for the three points. I think back to basics with a solid defensive performance, a clean sheet, and grab a 1-0 win.


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