When I was writing up the Ashlee Hincks interview, one of the questions focused on her being awarded the official club Player Of The Season 2018/19. This set my mind to thinking about such an award for the now finished 2019/20 season. With no official club awards yet issued, I made the decision to write an article naming my own choice of winner. Only, I wanted to be a little different. With Eagle Eye View still in its early days, and my desire to establish it as one of the main sources of media for Crystal Palace Women, I knew I wanted to go a step further. I wanted it to be more than just an article. I wanted it to mean something, to become a yearly event that was marked by something solid. For me, there was only one way to do this…
…I bought a trophy!
Now, not only can I write this article announcing the winner, but that winner can be given a physical representative of their achievement in the form of a trophy to keep! Sadly, it’s nothing fancy, but still, it’s the little things right? My hope would have been to put my social ineptitude to one side and present the trophy in person, perhaps at the home pre-season friendly. Covid though makes that impossible, and so the club will have to do it on my behalf(spares me standing there like a lemon not knowing what to say!).
Anyway, so I have a trophy, but still need to crown the winner. Now, I have my own opinions of course, but for me I wanted to gain some outside views to. After all, it would be stupid of me to not consult with someone who has been at pretty much every game, home and away. So, before coming to my decision, I held some discussion with my fellow CPFCW Loyal member, Phil Huffer, whose opinion I have always valued highly. Together we have discussed the various options and our reasons for them. On top of that, Phil was able to share other opinions that have been discussed on the terraces. So, conversations were had, and then I made my final decision and a winner was reached. Before I name that winner though, I wanted to mention some of the others who had been in contention.
A solid base always starts right at the back, between the posts. If you don’t trust your goalie, then the team will never be settled. For years this has been obvious in the men’s game, not just as fans, but visibly in the defence. When Speroni was in goal, and likewise with Guaita now, you could see the defence had the trust in them. They played with a bit more freedom, knowing they could rely on the keeper if needed. It provided confidence, which in turn enabled them to play their own game better. Whenever Hennessey is in goal however, the same can’t be said. They may not think it, but from a fan’s view, the defence never looks as settled. The same applies in the women’s game. In the 18/19 season, both Megan Lynch and Shannell Salgado had played well, but there was a noticeable difference when Lucy signed on loan from WSL side Brighton. So much so, that signing her permanently last summer was a key move. She did not let us down either. While we may have only managed one league clean sheet all season, that stat does not detract from the performances that Lucy put in. Playing 13 out of 14 league games, her command of the six-yard box and repeated string of saves was vital in keeping us in games and enabling us to play with confidence. Her recent departure was a blow, and she has certainly raised the standard now expected at Hayes Lane.
Full backs had certainly been an area of struggle in our first Championship season. There is a lot of pace in this league, and several teams who knew how to exploit it. I remember watching us play Spurs at home, and it was literally 90 minutes of them playing through balls down our right-hand side for Ashley Neville to speed onto and create an attack, and it worked almost every time. The right back position was certainly a troublesome one for us. Between the step up in quality level, as well as injuries, we struggled to find the solution. Ria Collins, Pam McRoberts and even left back Hope Nash all played in that role, and all departed the club last summer. However, when Annabel joined the club, we unearthed a gem. Annabel has been excellent in the right back position. Her 13 league and 3 league cup performances have seen her provide much needed solidity on our right-hand side. Defensively strong, Annabel loves to push forward when possible too, and scored a cracker away to Leicester. With Ffion Morgan now joining us in that same role, we look to have some strength in depth there and the competition will only serve to push on Annabel even more.
Joining us from Yeovil following their WSL relegation, Amy brought with her some experience of playing at the highest UK domestic level, and in her first competitive game at home to Coventry, we saw what could form to be a strong partnership alongside Captain Freya Holdaway. Amy was solid, reliable and became part of the spine of the team. She also achieved something that no one else in the squad managed, by being our only league ever present, playing in all 14 games. On top of that, she played in all five League Cup games and both FA Cup games. Given the problems with injuries that have plagued our two seasons in the Championship, this is quite an achievement. Perhaps the one frustration for Amy, is not having that regular partner to build the connection with. While making one centre spot her own, Amy has had Freya, Hannah MacKenzie, Jordan Butler and I believe Leeta Rutherford alongside her across the various games. This regular need for change makes it hard to build something settled and solid. Even so, Amy has given it her all. Hopefully the new season will see her find that defensive partner and give her the base to build upon.
If there is one thing that Crystal Palace, both men and women, have struggled with of late, it is goals. The season ending injury to Ashlee Hincks in the third game of this season, took out our top scorer from the 18/19 season. With record scorer Gemma Bryan also gone, we desperately needed goals to be added to the squad. They have been hard to come by up front, but in Ashleigh, we have had that player that all clubs need, a goal scoring midfielder. Ashleigh bagged 5 goals in 11 league games, meaning she scored just over a third of our league goals this campaign. Her goals alone have made her a vital part of the team, and her passionate and spirited performances have only added to that. This is a tough league to score in, especially given some of the teams are professional, or close to being so. Ashleigh has shown that determination to put her body on the line in order to get the ball over the line, and in doing so has helped us win much needed points. When it comes to winning the inaugural Eagle Eye View Player Of The Season award, Ashleigh pushed it very close.
Every now and then, a player comes long in the middle of a season who simply excels, and makes you wonder what could have been had that player been in the squad from the start. Amber was most certainly one of those players for us. Joining in December, she scored on her debut to set the tone of what was to come. With 2 goals in 4 league games, and 2 goals in one FA Cup game, Amber has certainly shown that she has an eye for goal. Her movement and drive up top causes problems for the opposition defences, and had the season continued, I don’t believe the scoring would have stopped there. It is always incredibly hard to find a striker who scores at the higher levels, no matter what reputation they may have(see one Christian Benteke). In Amber though, we may just have found what we need. She has certainly created a buzz among the fans, and the possibilities of what she could achieve with the likes of Ashlee Hincks possibly alongside her, generates a lot of excitement. Amber may not be POTS winner due to her limited game time, but if there was a ‘One To Watch’ award, her name would be on it!
So, as you can see, there have been options for this award, unlike on the men’s side where only Vicente Guaita and Jordan Ayew are in consideration for the official club one. Leeta Rutherford and Cherelle Khassal also deserve a mention, with both making 13 appearances(two of which were as sub in regards to Cherelle), and both managed a goal(Cherelle also scored in the League Cup). However, while there have been several candidates, there can be only one…winner. So, without further ado, the winner of the inaugural Eagle Eye View Player Of The Season Award, and soon to be proud owner of the magnificent trophy is…
While Ashlee Hincks was rightly awarded the club Player Of The Season for 2018/19, one of the standout players of that season had been midfield star Andria ‘Dre’ Georgiou. For many of us on the terraces, for 2019/20 to be a success, Dre would need to be a key part of the team. If you wanted to argue against this choice purely using stats, then it would be easy to point out that she did not score in any of her 13(2 as sub) league appearances or her 5 cup appearances. Also, with our lack of goals, it would mean not many assists throughout the squad. However, stats don’t always tell the full story. This has been said about Zaha this season. His goals and assists are down on last season, and so he is labelled as being less affective. But those stats don’t highlight the work he does in games for the team, nor does it change the fact that we all can see he is a level above a lot of our squad. The same can be said about Dre. Dre may not have the goals to her name, but her play has been outstanding. Her quick, skilful feet create space in the middle of the park and can quickly turn defence into attack. When she gets on the ball, you know that something positive is going to happen. When she plays, you know you can rely on her, meaning other players can focus on what they need to do, because that trust is there. One comment made about Dre is that in the games away to WSL sides Reading and West Ham, she was the one who matched them and looked at home at that level. This is not a slight on the other players, it is just an appreciation of the talent that Dre brings to the team. Dre has certainly earned her spot as one of the first names on the team sheet!
So, there we are, the first winner has been crowned. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the women who have pulled on the shirt this season, as they have all given it everything game after game to try and bring success to the football club. With the squad re-shape now taking place, there is plenty of reason to be excited about what the new season, our third at this level, could bring. Who fancies a sneaky promotion push? In football you never know! So, thank you to the entire squad, and congratulations Dre!
All Photos Credited To Tara Hook Photography