I am very pleased and proud to say that this is my third season as a Crystal Palace Women Player Sponsor. In the previous two seasons, I have had the honour of sponsoring Fran Ali/Hope Nash in 2018/19(I switched to Hope after Fran left), and Andria ‘Dre’ Georgiou in 2019/20. During that time, I was head writer for Back Of The Nest. However, my sponsorship was done using my first self published book(yes, I am an author, have I mentioned it?), titled The Lost King. My departure from Back Of The Nest over the summer months of 2020 initially left me without a writing home, until I made the decision to create my own ‘brand’ as it were. I wanted to be able to continue, and hopefully improve my coverage of Crystal Palace Women, to give them a much-deserved platform to hopefully enhance their following, or at the very least spread the good word. Thus, with a little help from the players themselves making the final decision on the name, Eagle Eye View was born. With it, came a new lease of writing life, and a change in how I sponsor a player. This season and moving forward, my sponsorship would not be with my book, but with Eagle Eye View. The change in how I sponsored, was accompanied by a change in who I sponsored. For the 2020/21 season, I am delighted to be the sponsor for Amy Goddard.
Since I first started writing about CPFCW a couple of years ago, I have been blessed with how helpful and engaging everyone at the club has been. From the days of my 5BY5 articles, to the proper interviews that I am doing now, the players have been fantastic, providing me with some of their time, when they truly had no obligation or need to, and I am incredibly thankful for that. Paula, the club General Manager, has been fantastic for me from day one, helping grow the connection between myself and the club, and making the work I have done actually possible. The gaffer Dean Davenport has been just as helpful, and I look forward to bringing you all an in-depth interview with him very soon! Amy though, did something that I never expected, and that still blows me away. Amy messaged me first!
Now, I am aware that some will be looking at that and wondering why it is a big thing. So, let me clear it up. Since I started writing about CPFCW, my aim has been to become a key media element covering the club, but I have always felt like I probably just come across as a fan doing a bit of fun! When I launched Eagle Eye View, I contacted some players regarding specific articles and topics that I wanted to write with them, if they were happy to. I never expected any reply, because of that feeling that I am just a fan with a keyboard, so when I started getting replies saying they were happy to be involved and actually got to have a discussion, I was genuinely really excited that perhaps this was more valid than I thought! Then, one day when we were having a family outing to Bluewater, I got a notification from Twitter, telling me I had a message. When I opened it, I saw that Amy Goddard had messaged me. Yes, one of our players had actually messaged me first! No nagging message from me, no sheepish request of an interview. This was one of our players, messaging me, asking if I needed any help with anything, and letting me know that if I needed anything, I could just ask! It was one of those crazy moments, when I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Let me put it into a little more perspective. While I am striving to become a proper media outlet of content for CPFCW, I am still a fan. Being part of the Loyal has certainly provided a closer connection to the team than you get with the men, but even so, I am just a guy who stands on the terrace, watching my team out there on the pitch, supporting them. So, when those very players reply to your message and are happy to work with you, it’s amazing. When one of those players contacts you first to offer help, it’s unbelievable! A true fanboy moment!
It was that moment that cemented my decision that Amy would be the player I sponsored this season, and I cheekily told her that she was now the unofficial Eagle Eye Ambassador!! You’ve got to try, right? I genuinely felt guilty changing sponsorship from Dre, but knowing she would be sponsored by someone else made it easier, and the fact that Amy had offered to help me, I really wanted to be able to provide some help back, and sponsorship is my way of doing that! Oh, and my reply to when Amy asked me if she could help? Naturally, I asked for an interview, the one that you are about to read!
Right, so I have waffled for a good while here, I am aware of that! I guess I wanted to highlight that moment for me, showing the personal touch off the field. Meanwhile on the field, Amy has been a warrior. Last season, before Covid brought it to an abrupt end, Amy was the only player to be ever present. Our two seasons in the Championship have been blighted by injury and the struggle to field a regular eleven, so for a player to feature in every game, it was quite some achievement! In Amy, we had stability, a rock to build around in all 14 league games, as well as the cups. That stability and consistency is something the team needs as we look to establish our foundations. The summer of 2019/20 saw so many changes to the squad, both in and out, that it perhaps was a little too much. This summer, the core of the team has stayed, with additions made in the areas where they are needed. Keeping that core has been vital in looking to take the next step forward, and thankfully, Amy has stayed as part of that core. Her career didn’t start with Palace though, and as always, I like to start these interviews at the very beginning, so we can learn about the player’s journey.
So, to get this interview underway, I asked Amy how she got started in football, and the journey she has taken prior to joining Palace?
“I started playing football because of my four brothers and my football fanatic dad. My mum has always allowed me to follow my dreams and she helped me so much along the way. I have always loved football from day one. I started playing for the local football club, Corfe Mullen, when I was 5 years old, and then moved to the Dorset Centre of Excellence, and then to Hampshire Centre of Excellence when Dorset folded. I decided to pursue my career through making sacrifices. I moved out of my family home when I was 16 years old so that I could move to Bristol Academy at the time. I played with the first team for a while then moved onto Yeovil Town Ladies. Then I knew I had to make a leap into one of the London clubs, and that’s when I made the decision to go to Palace.” So, it is fair to say that football has always been a part of Amy’s life, like so many of us who are hooked on the game in one form or another. We often hear in the men’s game about the lure of coming to play in England’s Capital city, and from what Amy says, she found that lure just as hard to ignore. However, with so many London based clubs, including several in the Championship, to choose from, the big question, is what made Palace the right choice for Amy? “The move to Palace was an easy one to me. I had different clubs ring me up asking what my situation was and when I spoke to Dean Davenport, that sold it for me. I am a very hard-working individual in and out of football, and the impression I got off Dean was the same. This made it an easy decision for me. It happened very quickly, with the whole process of moving club, and I am so happy here.” In joining us, Amy brought with her some much-needed topflight experience. In the 2018/19 season, she plied her trade with Yeovil Town, who at the time were playing in the Women’s Super League(WSL), which is the top tier of women’s football in England, and the only fully professional league. In that season, she made a total of 14 appearances, coming up against the county’s elite as she faced off versus clubs like Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal. So, I wanted to know what it was like to play in the top league, a destination we hope to reach one day? “I loved it. It’s any footballers dream to play professionally in the highest league in women's football. Training everyday suited me nicely, it was an incredible experience. The highlight for me was playing against my role models growing up, and to be standing alongside them makes you feel like you've achieved the reason you started playing. Through hard work and determination, you can achieve anything.” That season would reportedly see Yeovil fall into financial difficulties, culminating with not only their relegation from the WSL, but seeing the drop down lower than the Championship. Relegation can often leave players and staff with that feeling of unfinished business, and I wanted to know if Amy had the same feeling regarding the WSL? Namely, the desire to not only get back to the league, but become established within it?
“Yeovil are a very good club that allowed many individuals to have the opportunity to play in the highest league in England in that season. I am very determined to go back up to the top league as I love the thought of full-time football. Everyone goes through stages in their career where they need to go down a league to push back up. Banking game time is key, and using that to boost up your performance is vital.”
Amy was one of several new faces to join the club in the summer of 2019, as we saw a massive overhaul in the squad in a bid to bring it up to a higher level. So many changes led to quite an indifferent season, as the team tried to find its rhythm and settle down. However, despite struggles at home, our better form on the road led to the club finishing three places higher than the previous season. Having played such an integral part in the team, I asked Amy how she found the season personally?
“The 2019/2020 season started well. Pre-season was tough, and we all worked really hard to get up to match fitness. Some games we played at the start of the season didn’t really go in our favour, which was very unfortunate, but we bounced back from that and started pushing for more points. After the Christmas break we started to gain momentum in our performances and started showing other teams what we are about. Then unprecedented times occurred with covid-19, which made the league come to a complete stop and ended the season.”
As I have covered before, injury has played a massive part in our first two Championship seasons. It has been incredibly difficult for the gaffer to field the same team for several games in a row, with injuries doing their best to ravage the squad at every opportunity. So, for Amy to play in all 14 league games and all of our cup matches last season, was quite an achievement! What I wanted to know is how on earth did she manage it? Does she have a special routine, or specific techniques she uses in order to stay fit and injury free?
“Yes, injuries is always a massive problem in any sport you play. Especially training and playing with the intensity that we do; injuries are very common. I was thrilled and privileged to play every game last year and thought that with every game, I developed as a player and we all developed as a team. I have certain routines including ensuring I do recovery sessions, whether that is going on a bike or going swimming to get my muscles working again. Foam rolling and stretching is key for recovery and it is always in my weekly plan. For me, it’s my diet that keeps me going. I am 6ft so I need a little bit of food in me and try to ensure I get the best possible nutrients in my body to allow it to recover effectively. Throughout lockdown it was a struggle as when I was training for the hour we were allowed out, I did a lot of road running. Unfortunately, my back didn't like it and started to be quite painful, therefore I missed most of pre-season. So I am trying to build the strength back to start playing properly again, and with the physio team on board there's no doubts I will come back as ready as ever.”
For me, last season it looked as though our most likely centre back pairing would have been Amy, alongside long time Captain, Freya Holdaway. However, injury to Freya prevented us from seeing that pairing for enough games. We have seen in the men’s game, just how productive a decent central pairing can be, and so I asked Amy how important she found it to have a consistent partner at the back, and if she valued being able to build a connection with a regular partner?
“Yes, that was unfortunate to see Freya have an injury as we both get on really well on and off the pitch. She was a key part to Palace. Having a partner next to you that you can get along with is key. You need to bounce off each other and ensure you are both on the same page. Building a connection is key with anyone on the field, if you have someone not on the same page, that's where mistakes start to happen.”
The only thing that was capable of preventing Amy from taking to the field last season, was the arrival of Covid 19 and the decision to bring all sport to an abrupt stop. I asked Amy how that sudden stop affected her?
“It brought out a lot of uncertainty with both football and employment, and I did think from the off that it was going to be difficult for the season to continue. Throughout the period it was difficult to remain motivated without a definite time frame to work towards, like what we are used to across the season.”
It didn’t take too long for the WSL and WC seasons to be officially ended. I asked Amy, as a player, what kind of impact did that have on her?
“I did impact me a little, as no player wants to end the season half way through as we couldn't finish what we started. I wanted to continue my run playing week in, week out as it felt like we had started to click.”
Lockdown brought its own difficulties with it. To begin with, it was unknown when the 19/20 season would possibly finish, requiring players to maintain as much fitness as they could in case it happened. Then, when the season was ended, it became unknown when the 20/21 season may start, meaning the players still needed to maintain that fitness level, while the restrictions made training very difficult. I asked Amy what she did to maintain her personal fitness? Was she provided with training regimes by the club, or did she create her own?
“There was a programme set by Chico for the whole squad, with us reporting in every day. That helped keep us as focused as we could be across lockdown. Then every week the squad would come together for a zoom session of either Pilates or conditioning. This way we could keep in contact. I think for some of the squad the hardest training was actually the Sunday night quizzes.” Another issue that arose for many during lockdown, was how it served to heighten the struggles with Mental Health. I asked Amy how she coped mentally with the changes and the uncertainty that it brought about?
“I won't lie and say it was easy with the uncertainty over if, or when we would play. On top of that, there was the concern of my other employment continuing, and if we did go back to football, was it right or would that put ourselves or family at risk. But routine with everything I find helps me. Once I got my head round enjoying the long daily walks and actually having some downtime, when I’m used to being so busy, it definitely became easier. Support from family and friends of course helped massively too.” With Project Restart helping kickstart the safe return to football, I asked Amy when did she find out about the return to pre-season, and was it always going to be with Palace?
“I was fortunate to have a one-year option to stay at the club, and the club intimated they wanted me to activate that option for me stay, back in May. I wanted that too, so it was easy to commit again.” A common phrase we hear, is about how Covid has reshaped the way we do things, as we try to return to the world as we knew it. With football having to find its own way of doing things that adhered to the strict guidelines, I asked Amy what measures, if any, had changed upon the return to training, in order to keep in line with the guidelines? “Training was unrecognisable really. Being tested twice a week took a bit of getting used to. When we walked in, and still to this point, it's handshakes, no hugs, and keep our distance at all times other than when we are doing a drill. When we started back, we had to follow The FA guidance, so it was individual and small groups work, but no possession. Football was close, but still so far as we progressed through the phases.” Amy has already mentioned that she felt the team was finally starting to find its groove when the season came to an abrupt end. I asked her if such an end has provided some extra motivation to get back out there and hit the ground running for the new season? “Definitely. It was an unfinished season, that as I've said previously, we were sure we were going to finish strongly. So, it's about trying to recapture that form and bonds to kick on.” Being back in the saddle as it were, I asked Amy how pre-season went for her?
“It's been a bit stop start for me this preseason. A back injury flared up for the first time in a few seasons on my return, which took a bit of time to settle. And with testing, if you miss sessions you can miss weeks at a time. But now I'm fully fit and ready to get back on the pitch when I'm called upon.” Pre-season always looks like anything but fun! So, are there any particular elements of it that Amy enjoys?
“I think every player has a love-hate relationship with pre-season. Once I get into the rhythm and over that initial dread, I actually enjoy the conditioning and pushing myself. When the pre-season friendlies come, that's when you know the season is almost upon us.” This summer has seen some more squad shaping, but as I have already mentioned, the core of last season’s team has remained. With our squad looking the best it ever has, I asked Amy what the mood within the squad was like? “The mood in the squad is very positive. We are definitely clicking more this year and coming together as a group. Having connections within a team is crucial, and I'm so happy that the team is going in the right direction. With the new signings added into the squad, I think we are the strongest Palace have ever been and the competition for the starting 11 is so high. I love a competitive environment as it motivates everyone to work hard to earn their place, and creates a positive atmosphere.” Finally, I wanted to cover the matter of sponsorship. I know that for many, sponsoring the men’s team is off putting because it is a lot of money(around £2,000), going to a player who is on a wage that doesn’t need it. I know this, because I looked into it myself on more than one occasion. My understanding is that currently in the women’s game it is very different, and that the player actually benefits from the sponsorship. For those who may be considering sponsoring, I asked Amy if she would mind just explaining how sponsorship helps?
“Men and women’s football is very different and has been for a long time. The benefits we get from the sponsorship is helping the club provide the team with kit, equipment and things to help us perform every week. Sponsorship is a big help and we appreciate all the help we have got so far this season. We are improving every week from all the extra equipment we have and are all buzzing to play what we love after these unprecedented times.”
With that said, as far as I am aware, there are still players available for sponsorship, and I encourage anyone who has been contemplating it, to take the plunge and become part of the team! As for Amy, injury has seen her sit on the bench for the opening two games of the season, a 2-2 draw away at Charlton, and then a 1-1 draw at home to London City Lionesses. An unbeaten start with some positive performances, I have no doubt that Amy will be chomping at the bit to get back out on the pitch to play her part. With the gaffer looking for that first win and first clean sheet of the season, we may see Amy out there dominating the defence sooner rather than later. So, as I end this, let me say thank you to Amy for the interview, and to all those who have read it.
*All Photos Credited To Tara Hook Photography*