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Palace Ladies manager Davenport: I love what I do

28 April 2019

Crystal Palace Ladies have enjoyed a steady, meritable rise over the past decade or so and, amidst all the change that's taken place in that period of time, one man has seen it all.

From the very first embers of a largescale set-up to climbing the second-highest tier of English Ladies' football, Dean Davenport has been through every stage.

Joining Palace Ladies to fulfil his daughter Jade's drive to play football, Davenport has remained with the club since and has risen in tandem with it to now work as first-team manager.

"My daughter," he explained, "saw an advert for Palace in the Croydon Advertiser when she was nine and said, ‘I want to play football, Dad!’.

"I took her along to a trial and she got in. But I was just a dad at the time before the manager asked me, ‘do you mind helping out?’. It just kind of took off from there."

15 years later and the ladies are an established, competitive side in the Women's Super League, attracting top-draw players and crowds of several hundred on a regular basis. But for the manager, their proudest achievements extend beyond the parameters of the pitch at Hayes Lane.

Davenport elaborated: "I’ve been with the club for 15 years, starting with the little ones. I just want to put the ladies team on the map as a club and I think we’re doing that.

"All I want to do is make them [the club] proud, to be honest. I love what I do."

Having been put firmly on the map in the heart of south London, perhaps most eye-catching of everything the ladies have managed over the past decade is attracting a fan base like that never seen before in women's football: relentlessly vocal, remarkably committed and resolutely Crystal Palace.

"It makes a massive difference," Davenport said. "The players always know they have to perform when they come out because they [the fans] will always be on the terraces singing about them. They understand the passion that the Palace fans bring, it’s no different and they bring it to the Ladies games.

"We speak afterwards and, of late, there have been a few opinions put across by fans and the girls have taken that on board. I think it helped against Leicester, the fans didn’t need to come on a three-hour journey with us but they choose to and we appreciate them travelling as well as all the fans that come to the home games because that’s what makes us.

"The girls know that they need to perform week in, week out, not just for the club, but for the fans who pay their money to get through the turnstiles."

But those pouring through the turnstiles aren't the only fans with support for the team ingrained in their heritage, as Davenport has been an Eagle since the day he could kick a ball, leading his family to following the club and himself to spending hours off the pitch working for the team around his usual day-job.

He said: "I’ve been a Palace fan for 34 years. My brother was a player for the club many moons ago, Stuart Davenport. He’d been under the management of Alan Smith and played alongside John Salako. He’d been there since the age of nine and then at 26, he got injured. Me and my three kids are all season ticket holders.

"[Managing the Ladies takes] a lot of time, we train on Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays and on Sundays we play games. But it doesn’t stop there, obviously we’re always looking for players, going to watch games, nothing really different from the men’s side. It’s just day to day bits that managers normally do."

However, one day-to-day issue most managers won't have to face is the ordeal of telling their daughter that she hasn't made the team's starting lineup and, laughing, Davenport ran-through the problems of having his own kin as part of the squad he leads.

"Now, it’s quite hard to be a dad with your daughter [Jade] in the team. We have conversations at times that don’t work out but that is what it is. It happens quite a lot to be honest!

"But I’m not one to side with anyone, when I’m at football, she’s a player and when I’m at home, she’s my daughter. She knows that."

To see how both Jade and Dean Davenport's side get along in their final home game of the season, head down to Selhurst Park this afternoon for the 2pm kick-off against Charlton Athletic Women.

Tickets for the match are on sale now from the box office at the following prices:

  • £5 Adults

  • £2.50 Season Ticket Holders and Members

  • Free for under-16s

Buy your tickets here!

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