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Monday, 5 February, 2001, 13:01 GMT
Charlton's Bonus chance
Sue Thearle
BBC Sport's Sue Thearle speaks to Charlton Women's boss Keith Bonus about how wholesale changes have affected the club formerly known as Croydon.

What a season it has been so far at Charlton.

The side formerly known as Croydon, have played only six matches this season and are lying fifth in the Premier League.

But then the double winners have changed their name, moved across south-east London from Croydon to Charlton, lost four key players and changed manager and all in the last few months.

Keith Bonus is the new man at the helm. He replaced Gill Wylie as manager when she stepped down in November.

Croydon's change

And he feels that things in their normally quiet corner of London are finally beginning to calm down.


It was never the intention to take Croydon's identity and forget about them
  Keith Bonus

"The changeover is all sorted as far as Charlton are concerned and I can only praise the girls for the effort and determination they have put in," said Bonus.

"They've had a hell of a lot of turmoil in the last few months and they've handled it really well and I think they all feel they did the right thing."

The painful decision to shift the club across London came as women's football started to look ahead to a professional league.

The League and Cup champions believed that aligning themselves with a professional club would only benefit the team in the long term.

"We've got a centre of excellence and an Academy for the girls and they get all their kit and coaching free. It makes a huge difference for amateur players because it starts them thinking in a professional manner and that's a good thing for the future," added Bonus.

"But it was difficult. It was never the intention to take Croydon's identity and forget about them. People will always remember them and what they achieved there."

Bonus chance

But amidst what he freely admits is a transitional period, Charlton have also had to cope with the loss of key players.

Joanne Broadhurst returned to Doncaster Belles where she was joined by Debbie Bampton.

Sharon Harper retired and Gill Wylie had a crack at managing the side until reluctantly calling it a day as a coach and player before Christmas.

"That's been one of the most difficult things for the players. To lose four key players like that would be difficult for any team and although young players have come in and done fantastically, experience is hard to replace.

"I was sorry to see Gill go. She was a terrific servant of the club, but once she'd made up her mind to go, that was that. She'd also had trouble with her knees and at 35 she felt the time was right to move on."

When Bonus got the call to manage Charlton, it was a chance he could not afford to miss.

Charlton down but not out

But it meant that coaching would be taking over his life - quite literally. He already coaches girls at Charlton's Academy and Centre of Excellence.

And he also manages Ryman League Division Two side Tooting & Mitcham - who are top of the league and going well in the FA Vase.

"I'm a seven day-a-week football man now. It's great because I've been coaching for 18 years and I love it. But it is a heavy schedule and sometimes I don't know if I'm coming or going."

But despite an unenviable workload, Bonus is confident the season is destined to have a positive ending.

Although Charlton have games in hand on Arsenal and Doncaster, a repeat of last year's title success is unlikely.

But another cup triumph could still be on the cards.

"Realistically we know we won't win the league even though we've got games in hand," he said.

"But we can certainly have an influence on who does win what. Even though it's been a transitional period, we are still in all three competitions, so that's nothing to be ashamed of. I would say don't count us out."

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See also:

14 Jan 01 |  Football
Belles hell for Barry Town
10 Jan 01 |  Wales
Welsh Ladies face league exit
07 Jan 01 |  Football
Abbot jumps to Charlton's defence
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