Former Palace development coach joins Crawley Wasps

Mike Gardner, a former youth development coach for Crystal Palace, has joined Crawley Wasps as Ladies’ first-team coach.

Gardner will work alongside first-team manager Paul Walker, assistant boss Dave Cole and club head coach Martin Firmo, as Wasps bid to win promotion to the FA Women’s Premier League this season.

At the age of 18, he was working with under-nines in Palace’s development centres and other community projects in the Croydon area. Gardner also spent some of his holidays coaching in Spain, the Netherlands and Malta, gaining valuable experience.

He left Palace in 2013 to join Ardingly College as a football coach, for the first two years working with boys aged 7-18.

Gardner was then given the role of building a girls’ football programme at the college, which now has more than 100 girls training at least once a week – some as many as four times a week – with teams ranging from under-eights right up to under-18s.

While at Ardingly, Gardner also founded the MG Soccer Academy, running free events and holiday clubs for girls of all abilities to receive professional and structured coaching, in an attempt to get as many girls as possible playing and enjoying football.

Following the success of this, the East Grinstead Girls Development Centre was started, and it now boasts more than 30 girls playing to a very high standard.

“I am excited to get started with Crawley Wasps’ ladies first team and help get them where they want to be,” Gardner said.

Gardner’s arrival comes just after Wasps announced a partnership with Cottesmore Hotel, Golf & Country Club, which would see first-team players add a strength and conditioning session to their regular weekly training session.

Wasps’ promotion bid boosted by Cottesmore deal

Wasps’ first-team boss Paul Walker (left) shakes on the deal with Cottesmore general manager Johnny Porter.

Crawley Wasps have announced a new partnership with Cottesmore Hotel, Golf & Country Club which will give a major boost to the club’s ambition of reaching the FA Women’s Premier League (FAWPL).

The agreement will allow Wasps’ first-team players access to the outstanding gym facilities at Cottesmore, in Pease Pottage, just a few miles south of Wasps’ training base in Ifield.

It will enable the club to run strength and conditioning sessions, in addition to the weekly training night, as they look to win promotion from the London & South East Premier Division, the fifth tier of women’s football.

“Cottesmore are a premium brand in the local area with tremendous facilities and it’s fantastic we’ve been given access to them on a weekly basis,” said Crawley Wasps’ first-team manager Paul Walker.

“Last year, our 25th anniversary, we secured Thales as our main club sponsor and they continue to be a brilliant partner. This is another terrific commercial partner we’ve attracted, demonstrating we are a community club on the move.”

Johnny Porter, general manager of Cottesmore Hotel, Golf & Country Club, added: “Cottesmore is delighted to partner with Crawley Wasps and fully support their ambition for league promotion this year.”

The partnership with Cottesmore has been met with real enthusiasm by Wasps players, and the wider club, with first-team captain Hannah Duncan believing it could make all the difference.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to take our training and fitness up to the next level with Cottesmore,” she said.

“Last season, I felt we were one of the fittest teams in the league in terms of stamina but maybe lacked a bit of physicality at times.

“Hopefully this will prove to be the extra ingredient we need to achieve promotion.”

Crawley Wasps Annual General Meeting

AGM – Hear what’s happening at Wasps

Crawley Wasps Ladies Football Club’s Annual General Meeting will be held on Monday 26 June, at 7pm, at The Grasshopper pub in Ashdown Drive, Tilgate.

Anyone involved with the club – be they player, coach, relative or official – are welcome to attend, and hear from the committee the exciting goings on at Wasps.

The committee is also hoping to attract new members for various roles, including a treasurer, to replace the departing Rory Church. Please do get in touch if you want to help shape our future!


PRESENTATION NIGHT: Walker, Ward, Barker and Graves among the winners

Holly Walker won both first-team player of the year awards at Crawley Wasps’ presentation evening on Saturday, with stalwart Michelle Ward honoured for her 20 years at the club.

Meanwhile, Jodie Barker, Lauren Graves, Chanelle Gainsford and Eleanor Keegan were among the main winners in the youth section.

Chairman Alan Dunt said: “It was a good night as always. There was a lot of emotion there – I think when you get involved with the club, it becomes close to your heart.”

Here’s where the awards went…

Thales Award

Named after our main club sponsor, the Thales Award is new for 2017 and is designed to honour anyone within the club for their outstanding commitment to Crawley Wasps LFC.

The first recipient was vice-captain Michelle Ward, who has now been with Wasps for 20 seasons. She rose up through the youth ranks from a very young age and remains a key figure in the first team, being named our player of the match in the League Cup final against Leyton Orient last month.

“There was no more deserving winner, she’s been a credit to the club”
First-team boss and Wasps vice-chairman Paul Walker.

Ladies – first team

Players’ player of the year/manager’s player of the year: Holly Walker; Most improved player: Jade Elphick; Squad player (for exemplary commitment): Hannah Duncan

Centre-back Holly Walker picked up the top two trophies, after an excellent season which included selection for the Sussex FA representative team and jointly winning the most number of player of the match awards in the London & South East Premier Division.

Midfielder Jade Elphick was named most improved player. She arrived in the summer having played at a lower level with Haywards Heath and Hassocks, but stepped up with a string of composed performances in the middle of the park.

Captain Hannah Duncan – who is also one of the Under-12s coaches – was given the squad player award for her commitment to the team.

“In the tougher games, Holly has always performed. That is what tipped the balance for us.”
First-team boss Paul Walker.

Ladies – reserves

Players’ player of the year: Jessica Rippin; Manager’s player of the year: Natalie Stephenson; Most improved player: Hope Laker; Squad player (for exemplary commitment): Zoe Martin

Classy defender Jessica Rippin was named the reserves’ players’ player of the year. Her performances were rewarded with a first-team debut in December in a 4-2 win at Camden Town.

Former first-team captain Natalie Stephenson has enjoyed a renaissance under reserve-team boss Simon Pavey, who named her his player of the year after a season in which she chipped in with seven goals.

At 19, goalkeeper Hope Laker is showing mature and brave performances beyond her years in the Wasps’ goal – she was also given a first-team bow in an Women’s FA Cup tie at Abbey Rangers in September.

One of the loudest rounds of applause on the night was reserved for Zoe Martin, the reserves’ captain who was given the squad player for her determination to return to football just four months after husband Carl was paralysed in a motorcycle track day accident.


Players’ player of the year/squad player (for exemplary commitment): Jodie Barker; Manager’s player of the year: Chloe Baines; Most improved player: Abbie Chart; Golden boot: Lily Beckett.

Jodie Barker went away with two awards – players’ player of the year and the squad player, for her hard work and encouragement of others.

Midfielder Mark Hills and coach Mark Barker selected Chloe Baines (pictured) as their player of the year, while Abbie Chart took the most improved player, after stepping up her game this season.

Lily Beckett also picked up a trophy after finishing as the team’s top scorer, with 12 goals.

“Mark Barker and I are really proud of the girls and the hard work they have put in.
We are now preparing to move into ladies football, a new challenge we are all looking forward to.”
Mark Hills, Under-16s manager


Players’ player of the year: Chanelle Gainsford and Eleanor Keegan; Manager’s player of the year: Lauren Graves; Most improved player: Macy Watts; Squad player: Chloe Upton.

You couldn’t split the top two in the players’ player of the year vote – Chanelle Gainsford and Eleanor Keegan shared the trophy after excellent performances against the boys of the Mid Sussex League.

Goalkeeper Lauren Graves was kept busy at times during a difficult but rewarding season and constantly impressed with her saves, earning her the player of the year nod from manager Roy Stannard and coach Emma Wood.

Chloe Upton took the squad player of the year for her commitment to the cause.


A selection of Wasps’ younger players were presented with medals as a reward for their efforts this season.

COME AND JOIN US: 2017-18 Ladies trials in June and July

Crawley Wasps First Team Photo

Crawley Wasps LFC – the area’s largest all women’s and girls football club – is looking for new talent.

With our first team aiming for promotion to the FA Women’s Premier League, our reserves hoping to flourish in the South East Counties League and a brand-new Ladies third team for 2017-18, there has never been a better time to join Wasps.

If you are looking for a new club next season, come along to one of our three trial dates this summer.

Ex-Millwall midfielder Naomi Cole (left) and former Lewes striker Faye Rabson were both part of Wasps’ squad in 2016-17

Join a promotion-chasing squad

Our first team play in the London & South East Premier Division, the fifth tier of women’s football, and last season came third – equalling our highest-ever finish in the pyramid in our club’s 25-year history.

We also reached the final of the League Cup and Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup, where we played Women’s Super League 2 side Brighton, and two of our players were called up to the Sussex FA Women’s Representative side.

Our aim for 2017-18 is to win the London & South East Premier Division and secure promotion to the FA Women’s Premier League. To help us achieve this goal, we plan to train two nights a week next season, with a new strength and conditioning evening for first-team players at one of the top golf and country clubs in the area, who are expected to join our growing list of sponsors and partners.

Our reserves play one level below the first team, their goal to again consolidate their position in the South East Counties Premier Division, after staying up last season following promotion in 2015-16. The new development side, consisting of most of our Under-16s side from last season, will play in the Sussex County League.

Trial dates and times

We are looking for players to join each of our three teams for 2017-18. We will be holding open trials at our training base at Ewhurst, in Ifield Drive, Crawley, at the following times…

Wednesday 28 June – 6.30pm to 8.30pm
Sunday 2 July – 11am to 1pm
Wednesday 5 July – 6.30pm to 8.30pm

We are particularly looking for players with experience of playing at FA Women’s Premier League level, or those with the potential and hunger to step up to that level, to help the first-team promotion push.

To strengthen our reserves, we are looking for players with experience of playing in regional football, while for our development side, we are looking for talented 16- to 18-year-olds who have the potential to develop into future first-team players.

Contact details

Email Paul Walker, first-team manager, on, providing the following information…

• Full name and date of birth
• Current club and previous playing history
• Whether you wish to be considered for our first team, reserves or development side

You can also call Paul for more information on 07710 623980. Anything discussed will be treated in confidence.

An email containing full details of the trials will be sent out closer to the date.

There is no better time to join Crawley Wasps.

Crawley Wasps LFC match report – Crawley Wasps 1 Leyton Orient 3

Crawley Wasps were beaten 3-1 by Leyton Orient in Sunday’s London & South East Regional Women’s League Cup final.

Aiming to end their 25th anniversary season with silverware, Wasps paid for a sluggish start at Maidstone as they found themselves 2-0 down at the break.

Naomi Cole gave them hope with a goal 13 minutes from time but Orient – who will be playing in the Women’s Premier League next season – struck again in injury time to seal victory.

Centre-back Holly Walker, honoured after the game as one of three players to receive the most player of the match awards in the division this season, had Wasps’ first clear chance of the game when she headed wide from Cole’s corner.

But Orient proved more clinical on 11 minutes, as Wasps failed to prevent a lofted cross and Jasmine Campbell nodded in.

Midway through the half, Wasps were adamant they should have had a penalty when the ball struck an Orient hand inside the box, but the officials were unmoved.

Paul Walker’s side had settled into the game at that point but were undone on 37 minutes by a swift counter-attack, finished by the league’s top scorer Sophie Le Marchand.

Both sides had chances before the break, Faye Rabson shooting wide for Wasps and Le Marchand scooping well over the bar for Orient.

The league champions again started the second half on the front foot – Leyre Bastyr’s speculative effort dropped just wide and Campbell headed over.

Cole needed a couple of sighters on goal to find her range – first shooting over and then wide – but the former Millwall player did find the target when she hooked in from Toni Smith’s pass.

Orient’s comfortable lead suddenly looked precarious as Wasps put pressure on to find an equaliser, though the closest they came was when Danielle Boyd put a free-kick wide.

A set piece at the other end put paid to their recovery, but Wasps can look back on an encouraging season which saw them finish third in the fifth tier of women’s football, and reach two cup finals.

Wasps: Gillstrom; Niamh Stephenson, Duncan, Walker, Ward; N. Smith, Elphick, Cole, Boyd; Turbill; Rabson. Subs: Hannah, Worsfold, Davies, T. Smith, Dunt.

MEDIA RELEASE: Wasps meet Orient in League Cup final

Crawley Wasps bid to end their season with silverware on Sunday when they take on Leyton Orient in the London & South East Regional Women’s League Cup final.

Paul Walker’s side meet the league champions at Maidstone United’s Gallagher Stadium, with a 2pm kick-off.

Orient won 16 of their 18 games en route to promotion to the FA Women’s Premier League, but Wasps were the first team to score against them and the first to take a point off them this season.

And despite the 10-point gap in the final table, Walker – who also took Wasps to the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup final against Super League side Brighton – is confident they can match Orient in the showpiece.

“If we play our brand of football on the day, we’ve got a very realistic chance of winning it,” he said.

“Leyton Orient were worthy winners of our league but our squad has got stronger through the year.”

Captain Hannah Duncan added: “Finishing third and reaching two cup finals shows how far we’ve come.

“It will be a tough test, but we’ve already matched them this season so we know we can do it again.”

Wasps’ completed their warm-up for the final last Sunday, losing 4-2 to Orient’s predecessors as league champions, AFC Wimbledon.

Having fallen 2-0 behind, Suzanne Davies pulled a goal back after a cross from Faye Rabson, who also netted a consolation in the second half with the score at 4-1.

Wasps’ reserves lost 6-3 to league rivals Long Lane in a friendly, with Rosanne Fine, Topaz Luxford and Lily Beckett scoring.

Luxford was also on target earlier in the day for the Under-16s, though they lost 5-1 in their final league game against title challengers Ferring Divas.

MATCH REPORT: Crawley Wasps 1 West Ham United 3

Crawley Wasps put in a good display against Women’s Premier League opposition on Sunday in a 3-1 defeat to West Ham United.

Despite two divisions separating the two sides, Wasps had the better chances in the first half – though they still found themselves behind at the break.

They started brightly with the Hammers keeper having to make saves from Toni Smith and Danielle Boyd in the opening five minutes.

But poor defending from a corner, which wasn’t properly cleared, allowed West Ham to take the lead.

That did not deter Wasps though, who looked sharp in attack – and the equaliser their efforts merited came on 18 minutes.

Toni Smith split the West Ham defence with an exquisite pass to Nicholle Smith, who was sent sprawling in the box by the goalkeeper – and Boyd converted the penalty.

She had two more good chances after the spot-kick while Holly Turbill’s goalbound effort was blocked, but West Ham restored their lead in the closing minutes of the half after a missed kick in the Wasps backline.

The visitors upped their game in the second half and dominated possession, with Wasps keeper Marie Gillstrom making several good one-on-one saves – and when she was beaten, the woodwork came to her rescue.

Wasps were restricted to counter attacks, with Turbill shooting straight at the keeper when she was unmarked, and the Hammers added a gloss to the scoreline deep into injury time.

Paul Walker’s side face AFC Wimbledon in a friendly this Sunday before taking on Leyton Orient in the League Cup final on Sunday May 14, at Maidstone United.

Wasps: Gillstrom; Duncan, Niamh Stephenson, Walker, Ward; N. Smith, Davies, Cole, Boyd; Turbill; T. Smith. Subs: Richards, Natalie Stephenson, Dunt.

Crawley Wasps LFC youth round-up: Under-15s end historic campaign

Crawley Wasps’ Under-15s ended their historic campaign in a boys’ league with a rare goal and one of their closest games of the season, in a 5-1 loss to Cuckfield Cosmos.

Having gone unbeaten in girls’ football since 2013, the decision was taken last summer to give the team a greater challenge and enter them in the Mid Sussex Youth League.

While results have often been punishing, largely due to the natural speed and physique of the boys, the one-season experiment has helped their development – they have, for the first time in years, had to learn to cope with defeats and improved their game in the new division.

Sunday’s game was a prime example, as they held Cosmos to a 1-0 lead until half-time, with captain Eleanor Keegan in fine form.

After some direct play saw Cuckfield move 4-0 up, Chanelle Gainsford’s right-footed strike – only the fifth league goal the team has scored this season – ensured there was something to take from their last game before they return to girls football in September.

Wasps’ Under-16s beat Withdean Youth 3-2 in their penultimate game of the season, thanks to a hat-trick from Lily Beckett.

She scored her first to equalise after a ball from Caitlin Baigent and put Wasps 2-1 up having been set up by Nicky Durling.

Although Withdean equalised after the break, Beckett completed her hat-trick after good work from Chloe Coaker, Baigent and Jodie Barker, while Topaz Luxford hit the bar late on.

There were no games for the Wasps Ladies’ reserves – whose season has finished – or the first-team, who play friendlies until their League Cup final on May 14.


Praise for the performance of our young Wasps’ keeper Megan Hannah was certainly coming from all quarters after yesterday’s friendly with QPR Ladies First Team, including from the QPR Manager Martino Chevannes and most of his players!!! Not surprising following her performance….for QPR!!

With injuries to both of QPR’s regular keepers, we loaned Megan – still only 17 – to the QPR team for the match. And a super performance she put in for them, albeit her feeling very under the weather. Highlights were a superb one-on-one finger tip save in the first half, which would have been a certain goal, and a very athletic one handed save from a 25 yard Naomi Cole free kick special. She was also alert and off her line on numerous occasions to thwart our forwards, as well as being very assured with her handling for the full 90 mins. A very impressive performance from Megan – earning her the Thales Player of the Match award. The first time ever to an ‘opposition player’!!!

As I previously mentioned, the improvement in performances from all our keepers is highly noticeable this season and thanks must go to Paul Woodhams and Ryan Strudwick for their dedicated work with our keepers at training. Well done chaps!

Cracking result for our reserve team yesterday who go from strength to strength. Congrats to Faye R on her hat-trick