Poppy Payne & Millwall Lionesses: Pushing For A FAWNL Return

by Ben Gilby (13/12/22).

Above: Impetus sponsored Poppy Payne in action for Millwall this season. Photo: Keith Gillard.

Impetus recently announced an exciting content partnership with tier-five London and South-East Regional Premier side Millwall Lionesses, one of the great names of English women’s football. As part of the partnership, Impetus is proud to be sponsoring Millwall defender Poppy Payne this season.

The Lionesses, formed in 1973, became the first-ever women’s team to affiliate with a professional men’s side in the mid-1980s. Additionally, Millwall became the first team to have a female centre of excellence. A regular side in the top tier of the English game, the Lionesses were FA Cup winners in 1991 and 1997 and have produced some of the game’s most famous names over the past 40 years including Hope Powell, Pauline Cope, Mary Phillip, and Katie Chapman.

The South-East London side are now looking to return to the FA Women’s National League, currently topping tier five.

Impetus sponsored Poppy Payne speaks to Ben Gilby about her footballing journey and life at Millwall Lionesses.

Poppy’s footballing career started early, and locally in South-East London. “I started playing football for a boys’ team called Darent River when I was five years old after watching my brother play,” the defender began.

“When I was about eight, one Friday night our team went down to the Charlton Athletic training ground for a training session with one of the boys’ coaches there, where myself and my mum were asked if I wanted to come down to the Charlton girls training the following week and that is where my three to four-year spell at Charlton Athletic began.

Above: Millwall Lionesses’ Poppy Payne. Photo: Keith Gillard.

“After Charlton, I went to Gillingham for a couple of years before then joining Millwall in 2014 for four seasons. Unfortunately, at the end of the 2018 season, I took a year out from football as I had fallen out of love with it for various reasons. Of course, I missed playing so started back up at Kent Football United (in tier four) in 2019 to find my feet again. after two half seasons there due to covid interrupting both years, I found myself back at Millwall in March 2022.”

Poppy credits both of her parents for being the keys to her footballing success. “My mum and dad are the two main reasons as to why I was able to play football at a higher standard than Sunday League as they are the ones that drove me to training twice a week and all around the country for matches once a week for about 10 years. Without them, I would not have been physically able to commit to playing.”

That support helped Poppy to get over one of the biggest challenges she has faced in her footballing journey so far, as she reflects: “I remember after leaving Charlton, a couple of my friends moved on to Chelsea whilst I was at Gillingham. I told my parents I wanted to play with them again at Chelsea so they took me down to the trials (two years in a row) but I never got in.

“To be rejected from somewhere is hard, especially as such a young child. At this point Millwall however accepted me, and so that was a huge positive to get my confidence back again.”

Millwall, this season particularly, is full of great personalities all round. Each and every one of the girls and the staff care about each other and want to do well in the team for each other. The atmosphere in the team at training and matches as well as on our team nights out is great, we have a brilliant team bond.”

Poppy Payne on the secrets to Millwall’s success this season.

Whilst Millwall have had a strong start to the campaign, Poppy is well aware that the South-East London side has a battle on their hands to claim the sole place in the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East for next season. “The league is so competitive, as well as being part of many cup competitions like the FA Cup,” but she is grateful for the one club ethos at The Den which includes “the men’s team also support us women in many aspects too which makes us feel more a part of the major sport.”

The Lionesses were part of an incredible FA Cup First Round tie which saw them host tier three Gillingham, one of Poppy’s former sides, at St. Pauls. Millwall produced a sensational performance that saw them only denied a famous win by an equalising goal with 10 seconds of extra time remaining and then go down at St. Pauls in the resulting penalty shoot-out. Looking back on the game now, the defender said:

“The game against Gillingham was important for many reasons, some personal reasons for a few of the players who previously played there as well as for us to make a statement to the league. It was a bittersweet feeling – amazing to know we can all come together and put on a performance like we did and bring the game to a team two leagues above us only losing on a penalty shootout but also gutting to have put so much into the game to then lose something we were so close to winning.

That was a game that proved that Millwall are more than capable of mixing it with higher-ranked teams. That only makes Poppy and her teammates even more determined to clinch a place back in the FA Women’s National League at the end of this season. “The key goal for us this season is promotion,” said Poppy. “We want to be the best in this league and prove that we can sit in tier four and compete there too.”

To see all of Impetus’ sponsored players and partner clubs for 2022/23, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/partnerships

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