BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Georgia Griffin thought last season was a major step up in terms of her footballing challenge – now she has ensured that her next test is at an even higher level.
The 18-year-old striker scored the winning goal for Charlton Athletic Women in their promotion play-off decider against Blackburn Rovers in May. That victory ensured that
Riteesh Mishra’s side are in the new-look Championship next season.
The likes of Manchester United have been granted a place in the division as they have ended a lengthy absence of not fielding a side in the female game.
Griffin has recently signed a new contract with the Addicks. She joined them in July 2017, moving over from Southend United where she had 79 goals in the past two years of playing youth football.
“I’d had a really good season and scored quite a lot of goals so the manager said: ‘We can get you some trials elsewhere if you are up for that’. The first one I had was with Charlton.
“I remember thinking that this is hard, it was a lot different to grass roots – so much faster and you are playing against ladies. But it obviously went well because I got in.”
Hornchurch-based Griffin started playing football around a decade ago.
“My brother used to play at a sports centre, he did football sessions on a Saturday. I used to sit there and then thought I would give it a go and I liked it.
“I’ve been a left winger for most of my career but when I got to Southend they played me as a striker because they had three left wingers.”
Griffin is competing for a spot up front with the likes of the prolific Kit Graham, Charlotte Gurr, Charlotte Lee and Ellie Dorey.
“Last season was a really big learning experience for me. At the start I was nervous because I didn’t know what I was doing. But it has ended up being a really good year of development.
“I’m a lot more tactically aware of what the coaches want me to do. As it got towards the end of the season I managed to get a few goals and get in the starting line up.”
Graham is used to being a star performer for Charlton and walked away with the top-scoring mantle in FA WPL last season. But Griffin also ensured she was in the headlines as she nodded in the decisive goal to break Blackburn hearts at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane.
“It is the highlight of my career and I didn’t expect it because I never head the ball,” she said. “I was shocked it came off my head and went in.”
Griffin had been talking over a new deal even before that hugely significant tie had been won.
Now she will look to play a part in Charlton acclimatising at a level which is likely to bring major challenges – with many of the clubs they will be facing enjoying the advantage of financial backing from Premier League clubs.
“I felt I was just getting used to the level we were at and now we are going up,” she said. “It is going to be good. I feel pumped to be honest – I can’t wait.
“It will be another season of trying to adapt my game. I’m ready, I’m definitely ready.
“I don’t know what the club’s targets are for next season. I just want to do well. I want us to show what we can do. I just love rocking up and playing, that’s about it from my side – win as many as we can.”
Graham is an old head on young shoulders. The 22-year-old recently went past 200 goals for Charlton.
“People won’t usually see it but she gives you advice in training,” said Griffin. “Other players do as well.
“When I was on the bench earlier in the season I would watch her closely. We have different playing styles but I watch and learn.
“I like to utilise my pace – so that means through balls and ones in behind the defence for me to run onto. Kit is more about getting the ball up to her, turn and then pretty much bang.
“I won’t set any targets for next season because I still feel I’m settling into this level. I just want to make a positive impact in game, be that player who will help the team do well.”
Griffin is hoping to go to university to study a degree in sports science.
“Being a female footballer is all great but you are going to get to the point where you get quite old and people are going to replace you – that’s it. You just become like a memory. You need to have a back-up plan for when you do reach that age and have something to do.
“That’s why I am going down the uni route and to get a degree.”
Charlton Women handed one-year contracts to Chloe Brunton-Wilde and Charley Clifford last week.
It followed Griffin and vice-captain Grace Coombs putting pen to paper.
Brunton-Wilde said: “I’m very excited.We’ll play better against big clubs. We would rather be playing in tough games than smashing teams 9-0 or 10-0.”