The 2018/19 FAWSL season begins this weekend. After some big changes over the summer, the top league in women’s football is now fully professional with a whole new look. We caught up with four clubs ahead of the new campaign:

Everton – Andy Spence

How was pre-season?

Obviously the Gibraltar trip was brilliant for us. It was something that we hadn’t done as a club in a long time in terms of getting that time away as a group of players. We had brought in some new players and new staff members so it was a great opportunity to live in each other’s pockets for an extended period of time. And the good thing was for us, that it wasn’t just that side of it. We also played some real top calibre opposition as well with the likes of Real Betis and Atletico Madrid. We feel it’s been a really good experience for us and one that can kick start a good start to the season.


Are you happy with your summer recruitment?

There’s always a turn-over of players every year and that’s a feature of the game. You want to come out in a stronger position than you finished the season and I do feel that we are in a good place with the squad. We’ve added a bit of experience which is important for us and we’ve brought in players that definitely add to our attacking threat. I am really pleased and think we are in a better place than we were 12 months ago.


What are your expectations for this season?

We don’t want to put a limit on it. It was nice to hear in sessions with all the players that they didn’t want to set a target and to aim as high as possible. I think we understand as a group that it’s about a process of being able to find a bit more consistency in terms of our performances, which we lacked at times last year, and then delivering on that consistency. We want to be able to go and compete with any team in the league. We won’t be setting the bar too low, that’s for sure; if anything, we will be setting the bar very high. We want to go and win as many games as possible. We’ve got to take confidence that we did run the top 3 or 4 in the league very close last year and it was maybe against the teams in and around us that we dropped some silly points. But we will be going out to win every game that we’ve been involved in because that is in the DNA of our club and this group of players.


Reading – Kelly Chambers

How was pre-season?

It was good. We took the tour in the Netherlands which lead to us having 3 games in a week. To do that and to have travelled to that and everything else, I think we really tested the players mentally as well. To also have the players be able to produce a performance like they did against Ajax just shows how much they have been putting into pre-season. We always makes sure that there is a part in pre-season that is mentally testing – even last season, we had Chelsea and Man City in the same week – so that it’s not just physically that we are going to be tested. I think during that time on tour, we definitely did that, that’s for sure.


Are you happy with your summer recruitment?

After analysing last season, I knew I needed a bigger squad and that I needed to strengthen. I think that was key for us to challenge in the league and to push ourselves as individuals. I needed that bigger squad to make sure that bar in training and when we step out on the pitch, raises even more than last year. Last year, I had a small squad and I had a few injuries so I was lucky that I didn’t have players that got complacent because, in certain positions, they probably knew that they were going to be playing every week. I think this year now, once everybody is fit and firing, I’ve got competition in every place, and that includes even my goalkeepers.


After an impressive last season, is finishing in the top 4 the ambition this year?

Yes, that’s our ambition. We set ourselves a target of finishing fourth last year and we came close to nicking third. I think it shows how far the club has come and how well we’ve delivered on the pitch and what the girls have put in week in, week out to make sure that they’re picking up results. We picked up some big results last year; I don’t feel that that was down to luck or the other team having a bad day, I think that was down to us, our tactical play and the girls delivering what was needed to make sure that we get that result. I think it’s a case of that we want to be classed as one of the top four teams; we can’t let last season just be a one-off; we need to make sure that we’re at that standard and competing across the league even more so than last year.


Brighton & Hove Albion – Emily Simpkins

How have you settled in at your new club?

It’s been really good. Obviously, it was a big jump coming down here to Brighton but it really has been going great. And I was straight in; I mean making my debut against Chelsea. The structure and the professionalism of the club is brilliant and I can’t speak highly enough of it. It felt like we were friends straightaway. That’s just one of the things here – the teammates and the team and the atmosphere and the environment. It made my decision easier. I genuinely look forward to coming in every day because of the environment they set and the professionalism.


What are the club’s aims for this season?

I think as a group, the league’s our priority and to show our capabilities. We’re in a position now with all the facilities to become the best players we can be and the best team. So to enjoy this season, enjoy the journey and see how far we can go.


What is the biggest challenge for this group this season?

I think it’s having that experience of believing in ourselves. The girls that haven’t been in the league before, fully going for it. It will be on me to bring that out of them as well, having experienced it before, and to become a little bit of a leader for those guys. And also game management in the big games – so managing those games when it is maybe 0-0. Within the group, we’ve got a great balance – we’ve got Hope with all her experience and expertise but we’ve also got experienced characters throughout.


Bristol City – Tanya Oxtoby

What attracted you to Bristol?

Their structures really. Their links with a lot of the college systems and their focus on bringing through their younger players was something that really appealed to me. It’s definitely my background as a coach. To have that pathway in place already was definitely something that drew me to the club.


What are the club’s expectations for this season?

For us, it’s a long-term project. We want to be a possession-based team that looks to play that positive style of football but, in the mean time, while we develop that, it’s important that we are hard to beat. That is something that as a club we want to work on. It is something we’ve been working through and hopefully we will start to see the fruits of that.

We have our internal goals that we are working towards, For us, being successful in the league is vital – that’s the number 1 priority. Behind that is obviously the FA Cup – trying to get a good run in that as well. From our perspective, it’s about making sure the players understand the philosophy of the playing style but that we get results along the way. It’s not good enough to just go out and try to play pretty football; it’s to ensure that we manage the games when we need to be managed and in the way they need to be managed. Fingers crossed as we go through the season, this young group get better and better at that.


Are you happy with your summer recruitment?

We wanted to recruit with more of a longer-term vision and our younger players are definitely a part of that. There is such exciting talent and they want to learn, they want to be better and they’re in every single day asking the right questions and going above and beyond. From our perspective, I think we’ve got our recruitment right given that we were probably behind a bit since we started a little later than a lot of other clubs. I’m really happy with where we’ve ended up.


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