By Frankie Christou
MILLWALL LIONESSES captain Leanne Cowan is excited about the new era at the club ahead of the first FA Women’s Championship fixture this weekend.
The Lionesses are aiming to bounce back from their defeat against Charlton last weekend in the FA WSL Cup and start their league campaign with a victory when they host Lewes WFC at Princes Park in Dartford on Sunday afternoon.
Lewes will also be eager for a positive league start as in their two matches in the FA WSL Cup they have been inconsistent. In their opening match, they thrashed Charlton 5-0 but then followed that up with a 4-1 defeat to West Ham.
Having just been promoted following their fifth-place finish in the Southern Premier last season, Lewes have recruited a lot of new players to try and compete at this level.
The Lionesses appointed Pedro Martinez Losa as their new director of football in the summer and Chris Phillips took over as first-team boss.
The club will be competing against the might of the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham this season.
Cowan has been with the Lionesses since 2005 and has been given the captain’s armband by Phillips.
“There is a fresh feeling around the club now, they [Martinez Losa and Phillips] seem set on doing things right this year,” Cowan told the News. “We also have shirt sponsors now which helps us financially.
“We have teams in our league who are pretty much set up to play in WSL 1, but decided to apply for our league. I don’t know if that’s to take the pressure off their players so that they can get into a winning mentality, but the aim is to match them and fight with them for the title.”
“We are always seen as the underdog, so if we ever get a result against a team Twitter goes mental. We practically have a whole new squad so teams will be looking at us thinking an easy three points. But it is just a Millwall thing, we thrive and do better as an underdog and I cannot wait to get started.”
Last season, the club ran into financial difficulties and had to crowd fund to raise money to allow them to complete their season.
Another Lioness veteran, Georgie Giddings, believes that did have a damaging effect on the squad.
“We were nineteen unbeaten last year and had won sixteen of those nineteen, but the day we found out about the financial problems it all went downhill,” Giddings said.
“The solidarity of the group went and if you weren’t involved last year you wouldn’t have understood the bond between the girls to achieve that unbeaten run.
“But now we have a load of new girls who are just as talented and have settled in well.
“I don’t think there is a huge emphasis on there being a new manager as such because everything is new. We have a new chairwoman [Diane Culligan], a new director of football and a new stadium.”
Giddings will have to wait a little longer than her team-mates to start the season as she is serving a two-match suspension she picked up on the final day against Durham.
She hopes playing home games in Dartford – and playing on a grass pitch rather than the 4G surface at St Paul’s – will benefit the club.
She said: “The move to Princes Park suits the development of this club, playing on grass will help us improve massively.
“We want people to come and watch us and, as you know, there are loads of parking facilities at Dartford and it’s close to the M25.
“So hopefully we get the support we need.”
The fixture against Lewes kicks off at 2pm.