By Richard Cawley
Lee Burch has admitted there are a whole load of unanswered questions as Millwall Lionesses get ready for new ownership.
The South London club finished third in WSL 2 despite financial problems forcing them to the brink of administration after their major backer pulled out.
Lionesses launched a crowdfunding page which raised over £17,000 to keep the team going.
Burch won the divisional boss award from the League Managers Association. Without a points deduction for an administrative error the Lionesses would have been runners-up to Doncaster Belles.
The question is what comes next.
“Hopefully for the club we will be able to continue and in the same division,” said Burch. “We were given a license to play in the Championship [the new name for WSL 2 next season] but since then we had off-the-field issues.
“But as long as we satisfy the terms that we need to do, I can’t see any reason the club won’t continue. We’ve been working very hard to secure the funding we need for that and go into next season debt-free, which is the big thing. We need to clear the money we owe, once we do that we go into next season in a better shape.
“We have had interest and with some new people in the background.
“They will be sat above myself and Dan [Logue], who has been interim general manager and done great work to secure things.
“The new people will have to go through everything. We’re not being paid and contracts finish at the end of the season. It is the same as any normal year, that they’ll have to review the performance of people.
“I’ve got family. I travel up from Southampton to get to training and everything like that. I need to make sure that for me it still works. I love everything – working with the players, the standard and everything around the club. But I need to make sure it works for me.
“That is the same for other staff and the players. You’ve got to make your decisions in work and life going forward. Hopefully the conversation will be good.
“New people can come in with new ideas. We’ll cross those bridges when they come.”
The restructuring of the women’s game domestically will also increase competition for players. Premier League-supported teams are likely to be promoted to the Championship without achieving that on the pitch.
Lionesses have been transformed from WSL 2 strugglers to title contenders under Burch.
“I’m expecting interest in our players – definitely,” said the Lionesses boss. “There is going to be the opportunity to go into football at this level full time next season. It will be a great place for them to go and play football.
“There will be some WSL 1 clubs looking at some of our players, especially the young ones, and wanting to give them the opportunity which they deserve.
“We’ve done well this season and finished in our highest ever position. I’m a big believer had it not been for the deduction of three points and the administration, we’d have taken the title fight even further down the line.
“Teams are always going to be looking at our players and staff. There were one or two that we signed at the start of the year which I felt we were quite lucky to get hold of them.
“Charlie Devlin signed from Arsenal was one of the top goalscorers in the league and plays in midfield. She has been excellent and been in and around England under-20s. The same with Rianna Dean, she hit some form near the end and is an England youth product.
“They had interest last season anyway, we had to fight clubs off then.
“Our goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill has been here a long time but is just superb. Leanne Robes is the best defender in the league. You’re thinking other people are seeing that. You can see she will be better the more she is challenged.
“You want them to go on and progress themselves. We can’t hold them back because we can’t offer them something they can gain – full-time football. The next crop come through and we look to do it again, until we’re in the position to offer it ourselves.
“I felt if the club could match the players’ ambitions then there wouldn’t be any reason to stop that.
“The way the stuff happened off the field will be an issue in trying to keep some players, because they have to get the trust back in the club. That’s the big issue.
“We need to work hard to make sure the nucleus of the team is going to stay even if we do lose a couple. We’re certainly in a better place to attract players than in the past.”
Burch is keen to spread around the credit for his personal accolade.
“It really is recognition for all the staff and all the players this year.
“That award is about them. I’m just a figurehead and the man who gets to go up and stand next to Gareth Southgate to get the award.”
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