Fresh not just off of a play-off final win that saw his team promoted into the second tier of women’s football in England, but off of the stage at the FA Women’s Football awards where he claimed the trophy for WPL Team of the Year, VAVEL UK spoke to Charlton Athletic boss Riteesh Mishra about the coming season.
Consistently one of the best teams in WPL South since their arrival for the 2013-14 season, Charlton have never been far from the top spot in their time. Having seen Brighton and Spurs promoted ahead of them over the last two seasons, it was finally their turn to make it to a play-off final, the reward for their hard work a win in Sheffield and a spot in the second tier.
With a restructure of the top two tiers announced at the start of the season, the goalposts were moved for teams up and down the country, an open bidding process brought in though without the clout of a Premier League team behind them, Charlton’s best hope remained working their way to the top, something that only made promotion sweeter for Mishra.
“If I’m being honest, it did a little because we know as a club we’ve not got the fortunes of a Premier League club behind us so once we knew there was opperunity for more clubs to bid it put pressure on us to win our league and win the play-off as that was our best route and we’re very fortunate that that all worked out, but we had a lot of hard work behind the scenes.”
With 20 league wins and two losses their name for the season, there’s no question the Addicks deserved their spot in the play-off final, the victors after a hard fought 90-minutes in Yorkshire.
“One of the pleasing things is it feels like no one can take it away from us, it feels like we’ve got there purely on how well we’ve performed on the pitch and it’s a unique scenario as we’re the only club who’ve been able to do that.”
Less than a week after the win over Blackburn Rovers and the coach admits everyone is already hard at work, getting ready for the new season.
“We’ve already started – because of our play-off final, we’re probably behind a few of the clubs who knew they’d be in the tier before us so we’ve got a bit of catching up to do. We need to figure out our current squad, I think most of our players deserve the chance to go and play at that level, but I do think there’s going to be a busy one or two months trying to bring a few players in, and ever club is in the same situation. Work doesn’t really stop, we haven’t really had time to celebrate too much, we want to focus on next season, if you want to do well you can’t afford to rest.”
With seven London based sides over the top two tiers, and four alone in the second, teams will be left to fight over the more talented players in the area but with a strong foundation behind them, Mishra is confident of attracting the best in the city.
“Our catchment area is the same for lots of different clubs, one of the fortunate things we have is we have a good reputation, this season we’ve played a brand of football and we’ve got a staff that players want to come and work with. We’ve got that to our advantage but it makes it a bit more challenging as the pool of players is much smaller and more competitive and that forces a bit more pressure on us as staff to get the best out of players we do have.”
For the coach, his team aren’t just there to make up the numbers but rather to be a force, growing with the league and hopefully, in time, progressing to the highest level.
“For us, we know we’ve got talented players, we know we’ve got great staff, we’ve got to work as best we can with the resources we have, which are going to be limited compared to other clubs, to try and get the best out of everybody we can. I’m confident that that’s going to be enough to, first of all to be competitive in that league and I’d like us, as a club, to sustain our tier two status, try and build long-term to get into tier one and that’s going to be a long journey, but that’s our mission.”