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Player Of The Season 2020/21

With the season over, and the European Championships almost upon us, all that remains is to dish out the yearly awards. That means the return of the Eagle Eye View Player Of The Season is upon us! The award debuted last season to huge fanfare(Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration), and was highly sought after by the entire CPFCW squad(again, another exaggeration). While Annabel Johnson picked up the official club award for her excellent performances at right back in the 19/20 season, the inaugural Eagle Eye View award went to midfield dynamo, Andrea Georgiou.




Now one year on, and it is time to crown the second winner of this prestigious award. I am still awaiting the arrival of the trophy, which is due very soon! Anyway, as I looked at the possible candidates, one obvious difference between this season and last season, is that this season actually finished! It has also been a season that has seen us take great strides forward as a club. We racked up 20 points, a club record in the Championship. We also finished 7th, also a club record in the Championship. On top of that, it has been our most prolific season in front of goal, and of course, there was the small matter of reaching out first ever Conti Cup Quarter Final, getting so close to the Semi Final. There have also been some excellent strides forward made by players, which of course, is what this award is all about. Naturally, I would imagine the motivation was generated by the desire to win this illustrious trophy(yes, one final exaggeration). As I looked through the squad, there were several players worthy of being in contention, as I looked to narrow it down to a final three. One of those players was goalie Chloe Morgan. Chloe was our only ever present in the league, playing in all 20 Championship games, picking up 3 clean sheets in the process. A couple of her performances even earned her a place in the FA Team Of The Week. Then there is Shiv Wilson, our wizard on the wing. Shiv dazzled at times, racking up 18 league appearances, scoring once, 4 Conti Cup appearances, scoring once and an FA Cup appearance, again with a goal. Shiv has certainly been one of the reasons why we have been far more effective going forward this season. Another who forced her way into contemplation, despite only joining in January, was Gracie Pearse. Gracie joined from Arsenal’s Academy, and at 18 years of age, got herself straight into the starting line up. Gracie would end up making 6 league appearances and one FA Cup appearance at centre back, and will have certainly given gaffer Dean Davenport inspiration as we rebuild the backline this summer.


However, like I say, not everyone can win the award, and my aim was to narrow it down to a final three. I did manage to achieve that, but before I start the countdown, there are two other players who I feel have quietly gone about their business all season long, and while they have not made the top three, they are in my eyes, joint 4th.



The first of those players is Lizzie Waldie. In the 2019/20 season, Lizzie managed 5 league appearances and 2 Conti Cup appearances. She was part of the regular rotation in defence, in a season that saw only Annabel Johnson and Amy Goddard establish themselves as regulars. This season though, Lizzie has really come into her own. She has been solid and reliable at the back, while also trying to add to her game going forward. Keeping goals out has been tough this season, given the high calibre of opposition, but Lizzie has shown time and time again, just how tough she can be to beat, especially as she continues to learn at this level. This rise in performance levels has been acknowledged by the gaffer via his team selections. This season Lizzie has notched up 18 League appearances and 4 Conti Cup appearances, as well as one in the FA Cup. This shows just how important she has been for us, becoming a regular in the team, be it at left back or centre back if needed. On top of that, Lizzie has notched two league goals this season, including the last minute winner at home to Lewes on the final day of the season, that grabbed us three valuable points to propel us up the table to a more deserving finish. I have no doubt that Lizzie will be looking to pick up where she left off, come next season.



The second of the players in joint 4th, is midfielder Hannah Churchill. Hannah joined in January 2020 and managed just the one sub appearance in the league before the season was brought to an abrupt end. This season though, we have seen how valuable a player she is. Hannah has 15 league, 3 Conti Cup and an FA Cup appearance to her name in 20/21. While goals have not come her way, her game has not really been about that. In some ways, she reminds me of Yohan Cabaye in his latter stages with us. As he got older, Cabaye moved further back in the team, sitting between the defence and midfield. Many of our fans used to question what he did, because unfortunately some can’t see past stats, and believe if you aren’t scoring or assisting, then you aren’t doing anything. Perhaps if he had been playing the No.10 role, then that would be how he should have been judged. But Cabaye sat in the hole, breaking up play, picking off key interceptions and turning play around. He went about his job with a quiet subtlety, only noticeable if you watched him for a while. Yet he was so effective at it, and we were never the same when he was not playing. Hannah’s role in the team has reminded me of that, because like Cabaye, Hannah just plays her game, being continuously effective without the need of the glitz and glam as it were. I feel that the longer Hannah plays, the more she will grow in the midfield and has the potential to become a key midfielder in the Championship.


Right then, onto the final three!


THIRD PLACE:


Coral-Jade Haines



Coral has had a fantastic first season with us and could quite easily have finished runner-up. From the stands, she was seen as a marquee signing from Spurs, and was swiftly sponsored by those of us who form the CPFCW Loyal. Playing in midfield, on many occasions Coral showed a real attacking cutting edge, possessing that little something extra in her arsenal to open up defences and create problems for the opposition. She opened her scoring account for the club in spectacular fashion, with a sublime free kick just outside the box away to London Bees, and would go on to bag a second that day. One of her best performances came at home to the Bees in the league, a match which was very much the Coral and Bee show, with both bagging a brace, and they assisted both of each other’s goals too. Always on the move, looking for space, keen to get on the ball and get us moving, her performances have been invaluable at times this season. Yet, her importance to the team was highlighted the most, when she wasn’t in it. The Charlton home game towards the end of the season, saw Coral on the bench, and a struggle to get going on the pitch. When she came on however, she immediately grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and showed us what we had been missing. Coral made a total of 23 appearances this season(18 league, 4 Conti Cup, 1 FA Cup) and scored 7 goals in total(5 league, 1 Conti and 1 FA Cup). Her league total saw her finish joint 6th on the golden boot rankings. It has certainly been a memorable first season for Coral, and if we are to push on again next season, she will certainly have a key part to play.


RUNNER UP:


Cherelle Khassal



It was honestly a tough call between Cherelle and Coral for who finished runner-up, given their identical stats on the score front. For me though, Cherelle just pipped it, and my belief was backed up by someone who’s knowledge and understanding of CPFCW as a fan, in my opinion, is second to none. So how did Cherelle get into second? Last season she racked up 18 appearances in all competitions(12 league, 5 Conti, 1 FA Cup), scoring twice(1 league, 1 Conti). It had been a big step up for Cherelle, moving from Chichester City up into the second tier of the women’s pyramid, and while the goals had not been as regular as she would have liked, her work ethic and desire to keep pushing herself was very evident. In my opinion, both Cherelle and the club have benefitted from that, and this season has been a shining example of how a player can make the step up, put in the work and improve their game. The stellar performances of Bee this season have stolen all the headlines, and rightly so, but to me, it has not gone unnoticed just how important Cherelle has been. She is a constant threat up front, with her movement and use of the ball putting defenders on the back foot. While Bee is more direct, Cherelle reminds me of Dougie Freedman in the way she processes the game and uses her thought process to enhance what she does on the pitch. This makes life harder for defenders, because if they haven’t got Bee blasting through them, they have Cherelle causing havoc in and around them. If you truly want to understand how well she plays, I suggest watching the 0-0 draw away to London City Lionesses. Cherelle bossed the game, they just could not handle her. Even when we went down to 10, she remained a constant threat, and played the smart game to alleviate pressure off our backline. Cherelle has also added more goals to her game this season. She has a total of 19 appearances this season(16 League, 2 Conti, 1 FA Cup), and just like Coral, she has a total of 7 goals(5 league, 1 Conti, 1 FA Cup). This of course also had her joint 6th in the league Golden Boot standings. The reason why I have her edging out Coral into second, is because a couple of Coral’s goals were penalties, and because of the journey she has taken moving up the pyramid, while Coral came from the very pinnacle of the women’s game in England, namely the WSL. A third season is hopefully on the horizon for Cherelle, and I look forward to seeing what she delivers.


WINNER:


Bianca Baptiste



Honestly, was it ever going to be anyone else? Bee had this pretty much wrapped up by Christmas! Last season was a difficult one for Bee, as she discussed in my interview with her earlier this season. An unexpected exit from Spurs after ten years had taken a mental toll, while injuries hampered her physically. Bee managed a total of ten appearances(8 league, 2 Conti), scoring just the one league goal. The early finish to the season, coupled with the summer break, enabled Bee to reset and refresh, and she came back to preseason determined to make her mark in the red and blue this year. To say she has achieved that, is an understatement. Bee opened her account on the opening day, matching the previous season’s tally with a goal away to Charlton, and then swiftly surpassed it when she scored at home to Blackburn on matchday three. From there, she didn’t look back. I have referred to Bee as the ‘girl on fire’ all season long, and it is a title she very much earned with her performances. Her pace, tricky feet and power have caused defences nightmares all season. She is very direct, because her abilities allow her to be. Give her the ball, and she will run at defenders, carving a way through them. In the league, I have already mentioned how well she played at home to the London Bees, but another standout performance was away to Lewes, where her brace earned us a deserved 2-0 win. But it hasn’t just been the league where she has shone this season. This season saw us make an historic first ever appearance in the Conti Cup Quarter Final, and Bee’s goals played a huge part in making that possible. In our opening group game, we were 1-0 down away to Lewes at half time, when Bee then entered the fray. She netted twice, giving us a 2-1 win. In the next group game, Bee once again came off the bench to score twice, halving Bristol City’s lead from 4-0, to 4-2 in the space of a couple of minutes. While those goals did not get us any points, they improved our goal difference, which would be key in our qualification. Not wanting to spoil a perfect set, Bee started the final group game at home to the London Bees, and grabbed a third successive brace in a 6-1 win.


Goals have been a big problem for us in our previous two seasons at this level, but this season, we have worked hard to change that. In Cherelle, Bee has had an excellent accomplice on the goals front(for strikers), but it has been Bee who has stolen the show, and broken club records in the process. Bee made a total of 25 appearances this season(20 league, 4 Conti, 1 FA Cup) and scored a total of 14 goals(8 league, 6 Conti). In doing so, Bee became the first Palace player to reach double figures in all competitions, since we reached this level. She also set a new record for highest goal tally in a Championship season for the club. She also finished 4th in the league Golden Boot table. Everyone knows that if a team is to be successful, then it needs a striker fluent in the art of scoring. Bee has been that striker. She could have easily reached double figures in the league with a little more luck. Now, a key for us is that Bee stays this summer, full of determination to break her own records next season! For now though, let’s enjoy her success, as she is deservedly crowned the Eagle Eye View Player Of The Season 20/21.



So, as I bring this to a close, let me state that it is always difficult narrowing down the field to a small number. All of the women who have pulled on the red and blue this season, have played with pride, passion and desire to be their best. They have all worked hard and played a part in making this historic season for the club possible. For that, I thank you all. I would also like to thank Ashleigh Goddard, Andrea Georgiou, Leeta Rutherford, Emma Gibbon, Ffion Morgan, Georgia Clifford, Amy Taylor, Amber Gaylor and Ashlee Hincks, who have all now departed the club. I wish you all the best in the next step you take and hope to see you back at Hayes Lane one day! With that said, and the season over, it just leaves me to say thank you all who have read, shared and liked my articles, as well as everyone at CPFCW who continue to make this possible by working so closely with me. I will see you next season!


*PHOTOS COURTESY OF TARA HOOK PHOTOGRAPHY & STEPHEN FLYNN*

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