Molly's path to Palace
Molly's Palace journey began just over a year ago when she was called up to represent Palace in a school tournament. Fast forward to today, and she's become a crucial player in the Crystal Palace Girls U12s squad. This is her story.
Crystal Palace Under 12s Girls recent summer signing, Molly, has been impressing coaches since her football journey with Palace kicked off just over a year ago.
Her story began when she was called up to represent the Eagles in the Premier League Primary Stars National Football Tournament, before going on to play at our Player Development Centres (PDC) in south London. It’s her accomplishments in these two Palace for Life programmes that opened the door to her football dream: a regular starting role in the Crystal Palace Under 12s Girls squad.
Molly is no stranger to success on the pitch. The Attacking Central Midfielder played a crucial role in the team that climbed their way from regional school tournaments, through to a London regional competition, all the way up to the Premier League Primary Stars National final which was held at Elland Road earlier this summer.
The road to Leeds would prove to be far from straightforward. There were a number of games that needed to be played, and won, to get to the finals 230 miles away in West Yorkshire. In the early stages of the competition, all of the teams that Molly’s side were competing against were in the Palace catchment area, so were all fighting for their place to represent the club in the final.
The first round of games saw her school compete against other schools in the Bromley area. They came in first place. This victory secured their spot in the next round of games – a knockout tournament between schools in Croydon and Sutton, two other boroughs where we work.
A very respectable second-place standing propelled her team into the next round – the regional London tournament hosted by Charlton in March, competing against schools who were representing the likes of Chelsea, West Ham, and Arsenal.
This victory at The Valley was the big one – they were to put on the red and blue and represent Palace at one of the country’s loudest and most famous grounds.
Unfortunately, her team missed out on the title this time around, but reaching the finals was an accomplishment in itself, taking into account the sheer number of games it took to make it there. What was most important to Molly, however, was that she was enjoying her football with her friends.
“It was very fun because I had all of my friends with me, and it felt so rewarding when we were winning because was such a fun day, and we were all together.” Molly said.
Away from her involvement in our school programme, Molly was a regular fixture in our Girls PDCs programme, which is our dedicated player pathway that helps to develop young players’ football abilities and personal development; and for the very talented, can offer a pathway into Crystal Palace Women.
Which is exactly what happened. During what appeared to be a regular PDC session, Molly heard the words any promising footballer her age from south London wants to hear; “Trials at Crystal Palace U12s are coming up, and I think you should give it a go.”
It was this piece of advice from her coach Kiera that helped her grow into the player she is today. “An attacking, tenacious and resilient central Midfielder, who has the get-up-and-go to give it her all in every game she plays”, as described by Primary Education Manager James Jenden, who spotted Molly’s talent during her performances in the school tournament.
After a successful first trial, Molly was invited back to trial for a second time. Soon after, she got the call-up.
At first, Molly was slightly nervous about joining Palace but soon found her feet. Her mum, Katie explains:
“At the beginning, she was a bit nervous and wasn’t sure if she would know anyone. She was the only one who actually came from the Palace for Life PDCs, and actually had a choice of coming here to Palace or going to Charlton.
A few of her friends were going to Charlton, but after meeting her coaches Tom and Chris, who are so relaxed and calm, she’s been absolutely loving it with a whole group of new friends”.
Molly signed for the club in the summer and now sits as a regular starter in the Palace U12s Girls side. The team has played a few friendlies so far and recently won their first competitive game 2-1 as a full squad away at Welling United.
Our PDC programme is built with progressions just like Molly’s in mind, largely owed to the shared coaching philosophies between our PDCs and the Crystal Palace Academy. Our coaches work across both Palace for Life and the Academy to make sure sessions are closely aligned with the Academy’s style, approach and coaching ethos. This philosophy is mutually beneficial, in that it gives the Academy the opportunity to recruit local talent who grasp Palace’s distinct playing style, whilst offering best-in-class football coaching and personal development for the players.
Tom Kember, Crystal Palace U12 Girls coach, commented on this connection:
“It’s [the link between Palace for Life and Crystal Palace U12 Girls] really beneficial because it allows us to identify local talent from the area. It also means the players already have the game intelligence and technique we’re looking for as well.
Palace for Life’s PDCs are important because they develop players both technically and tactically, and can be fed into our squad. Molly is a prime example, as she’s not only great on the ball, she’s able to take and apply instructions into matches”.
Molly’s journey is a perfect example of what we’re all about: helping young footballers reach their full potential, grow not just as players but as individuals, and open doors to Crystal Palace and other local teams.
For more information on our work in local schools, head here.
For more information on our Girls Player Development Centres, head here.