Ahead of this weekend's historic first-ever Women's Championship fixture, Palace Ladies captain Freya Holdaway spoke to the club's matchday programme and gave her thoughts on the upcoming season, which will see the Eagles take their place in the second tier of the women’s game for the first time.
Pre-season has been a rollercoaster. When we were told that we weren’t getting into the Women’s Championship there was a lot of disappointment, but social media allowed us to see how much backing we had from our supporters. It was then brilliant to be allowed into the Championship, but we’ve had to quickly adapt and prepare ourselves for the step up.
Everyone is buzzing ahead of the new season! The excitement levels around the club are so high and the girls have been working really hard. Expectations have been raised a little, as we don’t want to have received all that backing and not perform as we should do. It will be tough; some of us are going into the new league a bit blind as we’ve not played at that high of a level before, but we have recruited a few experienced players which should help.
Juggling work and football will be tough. We will be playing teams who are much stronger, more disciplined and probably more clinical, so the biggest thing for us will be trying to optimise our training time. We are comparing ourselves against teams like Manchester United who are full-time athletes, whereas we all have day jobs so we have to manage our time well as individuals, and a team.
I can’t wait to face Manchester United this season. I’m a United fan so I’m already eyeing those games up, but I’m equally looking forward to playing Charlton Athletic again which is always a tasty game for us regardless of the league we’re in. It’ll also be interesting to see how Tottenham Hotspur have developed since we last played them a couple of years ago.
The exposure of women’s football has gone through the roof. People are beginning to buy into it - a lot more people are coming to watch the games and young girls are getting involved which allows academies to be set up. The women’s game has been on a huge journey over the past 10 years, but there is so much more room for growth so these changes have to be positive in the long run.
Leading Palace out as captain in the Championship will be an honour. It’s going to be the highest level I’ve played at in my club career, so to know I’m playing in the second tier is massive because sometimes you mentally cap things and believe you’re only good enough for a certain level. What the club has achieved has helped push me on personally, so it’ll be great to show the girls that all the hard work has paid off.
I’ll probably be harder on the girls, so I probably won’t be liked as much! You have to demand quality from your players, and if I don’t perform I won’t gain their respect, but I don’t see it as pressure. It’s a chance to step up and correct some things that I didn’t do right last year, so it’ll be a new challenge. We hold ourselves to certain standards and expect to perform.
Palace start their Women's Championship season at home to Leicester City on Sunday 9th August in a 2pm kick-off. Tickets are priced at just £5 for adults and £2.50 for season ticket holders and over-65, while under-16s go free!