Crystal Palace midfielder Ciara Sherwood scored as the Eagles recently reached the final of the Capital Women’s Cup. Her side are also currently gunning for promotion to the WSL 2.
Sherwood isn’t just impressing on the pitch, however. She’s also the founder of Advance Player Development, an organisation to improve grass-roots footballers to an academy level.
The midfielder was still playing for a local side until the age of 15 before she was spotted by a professional football club. And within 12 months, her career took off.
“I think I was 15 and Keith Boanas spoke to me about going down to Charlton. I was only playing for a local team,” Sherwood revealed. “I went down and started playing for the u16s for Charlton where I then went on to play for the Academy and Reserves.
“When I turned 16, I signed for Charlton’s first-team and started playing so it all came at once for me. It was pretty exciting signing and getting to play with all of these experienced older footballers. I won’t forget scoring my first goal on my debut against Millwall.
“I really appreciated every opportunity I was given. I actually play with a few of the girls now at Crystal Palace, so we talk about our times together at Charlton.”
After 11 years with the Addicks, Ciara moved to Millwall Lionesses in 2012. Her debut season saw the Londoners finish second in the Southern Division, eight points adrift of Reading.
“One of the worst moments was when I was playing for Millwall and we had such a great year, finishing second. We could’ve won the league that season but lost to Brighton and Reading in the last two games which gifted them the title.”
The Lionesses earned promotion to the WSL 2 that season, where they still currently reside. Sherwood spent four years with Millwall before switching to Palace a division below. She tore her ankle ligaments in her debut season with the Eagles, who finished fifth.
“Getting injured last season when I did my ankle (was a low point),” she admitted.
Palace are two places better off this season, however, just five points adrift of a playoff place, and the midfielder isn’t ruling out their chances of finishing top.
“It’s a tight competitive league. I would say we still have a chance and we definitely want that top spot so let’s see what happens.”
Playing well for Palace could boost her chances of starting for Northern Ireland too. Sherwood has made a handful of appearances for the national team and cherishes every opportunity she gets to wear the green and white shirt.
“I won’t forget making my debut for Northern Ireland against Georgia. My best moment would probably be playing and beating Portugal away last year. It was a pretty special moment, from the goal to the win and the journey home on the coach. It was so amazing.”
Ciara last featured for Northern Ireland in November’s World Cup qualifier against Slovakia, coming off the bench in a 3-1 away win. She says Chelsea and Switzerland forward Ramona Bachmann is the best player she’s come up against in her career.
“Her feet are so quick. She’s so skilful. We played Switzerland away in the Euro qualifiers and I remember thinking ‘just don’t let her nutmeg you’.”
Off the field, Sherwood founded Advance Player Development, and revealed what her organisation set out to do in football.
“Our aim at APD is to bridge the gap between grassroots football and Academy football. Our aim is to improve the children and have them signed for academy teams even within our scholarship programme.”
Thanks to Ciara Sherwood for speaking with The Sophist. We wish her and Crystal Palace all the best this season.