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.

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