The start of the 2023/24 Barclays Championship is upon us! With plenty of change happening over the summer, it promises to be a league that is more dramatic and unpredictable than ever, which perhaps makes these potential predictions somewhat questionable.

The stakes have never been higher. 12 clubs will be vying for the title and coveted promotion spot while, for the first time, the bottom two will be relegated. Will Birmingham build on their narrow miss last season? What will London City look like this campaign? How will a reinvigorated Sheffield United do? Will Watford be able to adjust and stay up?

Birmingham City 

2022/23 finish: 2nd

Predicted finish: 1st

Player to Watch: Jade Pennock


Darren Carter’s Blues suffered the agonising heartbreak of losing out on the Championship title and returning immediately to the WSL by one point last season. And they are working hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Birmingham have continued to build behind the scenes with the illustrious Hope Powell appointed as Technical Director and Emily Simpkins named Assistant Head Coach after ending her playing days with Charlton.

Despite losing a player with the leadership and defensive nous of Harriet Scott – she retired after the World Cup to focus on her medical career – they are not short of experience and have retained the core of their squad.

Blues legends Remi Allen and Jade Moore both return to bolster the midfield of the club where they enjoyed much success. Ellie Mason might prove to be one of the signings of the season while Charlie Devlin has returned permanently after a successful loan spell last time out.

As a sidenote, Birmingham underwent an ownership change over the summer as they were acquired by Knighthead. This came with perhaps a surprising add-on – the investment of NFL legend Tom Brady.



Blackburn Rovers

 2022/23 finish: 10th

Predicted finish: 9th

Player to Watch: Tyler Toland


This season marks something of a fresh start for Rovers with a new coach, new home, new name, and new faces.

Blackburn – now known as Blackburn Rovers Women – recruited Simon Parker as Head Coach in place of the departed Gemma Donnelly. Parker has had experience both at Lewes and abroad at SC União Torreense in Portugal.

In addition, they have moved ground over the summer to Lancashire FA County Ground, while a minimum of four games (including the season opener) will be staged at Ewood Park.

The club’s increased professionalisation meant there were a couple of sad goodbyes over the summer. Prolific goalscorer, Saffron Jordan, departed to concentrate on her work with the NHS after 130 goals in 219 appearances. Kayleigh McDonald also left after seven years and 153 appearances due to work commitments. In addition, they were dealt a blow when Farah Crompton suffered an ACL injury in pre-season that will rule her out for the foreseeable.

Signings have been strong, however. Manchester United duo, Chloe Williams and Niamh Murphy, spent time on loan with Blackburn last season and both have made their stay permanent. 22-year-old Tyler Toland is one of the most promising midfielders coming out of the Republic of Ireland and is looking to resurrect a career that has stalled somewhat. Lucy Shepherd has also joined from London City while forward Georgia Walters makes a return. Promising young defender, Hannah Silcock, arrived on a season-long loan from Liverpool.



Charlton Athletic

2022/23 finish: 4th

Predicted finish: 6th

Player to Watch: Mel Johnson


Charlton go into their second full-time season looking to build on last campaign’s fourth placed finish.

The extension of Karen Hills’ contract for another two years points to stability. Louise McGing meanwhile has been named the club’s new General Manager.

Experience has been lost and replaced over the summer. Lauren Bruton and Emily Simpkins have both hung up their playing boots and moved on. The arrival of Kate Longhurst and Kayleigh Green, however, fill that void.

Sian Rogers and Elisha N’Dow have both returned on permanent deals after successful loan spells last season. Rebecca McKenna, Carla Humphrey and Karin Muya have all been brought in while young Freya Godfrey has arrived on a season long loan from Arsenal.

The Valley will play host to their opener against Sheffield United, a fitting way to start a season that promises plenty.



Crystal Palace

2022/23 finish: 5th

Predicted finish: 4th

Player to Watch: Molly-Mae Sharpe


It is safe to say that Palace are a club in transition off the pitch. The departure of Dean Davenport and his coaching staff after investigations into their conduct has meant wholesale changes behind the scenes.

Grace Williams has arrived from Bristol City as the new Head of Women’s Football while Laura Kaminski was named their new manager. She brings experience of an assistant role at Charlton and has worked with England’s U19s.

This period of change has not been reflected on the pitch with many of last year’s squad re-signing. Coral-Jade Haines and Rianna Dean are perhaps the most notable departures. Three have come in – Lia Cataldo from Bristol and Hayley Nolan and Shanade Hopcroft from London City – while young Keira Barry promises much as a loanee from Manchester United.

Palace will move to a new home this season as Sutton United’s VBS Community Stadium will host the team. They have also been promised two games at Selhurst Park. 22-year-old Aimee Everett meanwhile has been named their new team captain.




 2022/23 finish: 7th

Predicted finish: 7th

Player to Watch: Beth Hepple


Durham’s first year as a full-time outfit was not without its struggles and they will want to improve on a seventh-place finish.

What is promising is that they have lost relatively few players to the newly professional Newcastle United with just Bridget Galloway and Hannah Greenwood making the move across. The departure of Rio Hardy to Rangers will, however, be a blow.

There have been incomings as well. Abby Holmes returns to the club from Sunderland while Amy Andrews and Eleanor Ryan-Doyle both bolster their front line. The retention of Beth Hepple, Dee Bradley, Jess Clarke and Sarah Robson was crucial.

Off the field, a ground-breaking partnership with Nike will aid them massively with their ambitions going forward.



2022/23 finish: 9th

Predicted finish: 8th

Player to Watch: Reanna Blades


The Rookettes are another team undergoing change but for them it is happening both on and off the pitch.

The loss of Ellie Mason and Emily Kraft will have been a blow, but Scott Booth has recruited well to replace the seven who have left. Nine have come in – Caragh Hamilton; Anna Grey; Maria Farrugia; Sarah Brasero-Carreira; Hollie Olding; Grace Riglar; Grace Garrard; Kate Oakley; and Shauna Vassell – while key members have been retained. The arrival of exciting prospect Reanna Blades on loan from Chelsea is one to watch.

After a solid pre-season, Booth is feeling cautiously optimistic ahead of the new campaign. “My hopes are that we are battling at the top end of the table,” he told club media. “We want to be positive about our season; we do know it’s going to be massively tough and competitive.”

Off the pitch, Kelly Lindsey has departed as Head of Performance while Nat Haigh has moved on from her coaching role.

In more positive news, however, the club have signed a three-year deal with Nike both as a kit supplier and a partner in their football activities.



London City

2022/23 finish: 3rd   

Predicted finish: 5th

Player to Watch: Danielle Carter


Despite their strong performance last time out, London City have experienced something of an exodus over the summer. 16 players have departed taking plenty of experience with them.

The appointment of Carolina Morace as Head Coach was a positive piece of recruitment. The Italian legend has arrived from Lazio on a two-year contract and set about a rebuild immediately.

Bringing in know-how was absolutely key, and in Danielle Carter, Ruesha Littlejohn, Grace Moloney and Emma Mukandi, she has done just that. All four possess a wealth of WSL experience to bolster the squad.

Morace has been unafraid to look abroad for recruits. Sonia O’Neill has arrived from Potsdam, Niamh Farrelly from Parma, and Paige Satchell from Wellington Phoenix. Promising youngster Maddi Wilde has also come in on loan from Bristol City.




2022/23 finish: 12th in the WSL

Predicted finish: 11th

Player to Watch: Tia Primmer


A heart-breaking end to Reading’s time in WSL has brought wholesale, and not wholly positive changes for the club.

Shortly after their relegation, it was announced that the club would shift to a part-time model with the aim at a rebuild. However, in a league that is becoming more and more professional with every season, it is difficult to see how they can survive.

The squad that Kelly Chambers built has been gutted with many players moving on along with their manager. There have been 14 in total including the loss of Academy graduates, Grace Moloney and Emma Harries, and the team’s engine, Rachel Rowe.

Liam Gilbert was announced as their new coach a little under ten days ago and has had limited time preparing the squad. He has good pedigree, however, and comes in off the back of an impressive campaign with Oxford United last season.

Charlie Estcourt and Rachel Dugdale (née Newborough) have both made a return to club of their youth. Ava Kuyken was a promising signing but has since been ruled out with an ACL injury. Young Chelsea goalkeeper, Emily Orman, has come in on loan while Rose Kite and Georgia Wilson have also joined.



Sheffield United

2022/23 finish: 8th

Predicted finish: 3rd  

Player to Watch: Jess Sigsworth


Things at Sheffield United, on the other hand, could not look much rosier with Jonathan Morgan preparing for his first full season in charge of the team.

It was announced at the start of pre-season that the Blades would be starting to transition towards a full-time playing model with several players and staff signing full-time contracts. Sophie Barker made a permanent return to the club as captain while also being named the new manager of their Professional Game Academy.

It is inevitable in the transition that they would lose some faces along the way. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Naomi Hartley both said their goodbyes over the summer while Mia Enderby made her step to WSL football by signing with Liverpool.

The intake has been significant, however. Jess Sigsworth comes in looking to regain the form she showed prior to rupturing her ACL. Young goalkeeper Fran Stenson turned her loan spell permanent while Tara Bourne has moved from Manchester United after an impressive stint with Birmingham last year. Jodie Hutton and Juliet Adebowale-Arimoro are other notable recruits.




2022/23 finish: 6th

Predicted finish: 2nd   

Player to Watch: Lucia Kendall


The Saints inaugural Championship season was an impressive one despite tapering off in the later stages of the campaign. For a while, they were challenging right at the top of the table, a clear display of the potential of Marieanne Spacey-Cale’s squad.

Spacey-Cale has retained the majority of her young team that served her so well last time out. The manager has also been active in the market, however, making several astute signings to bolster their ranks.

Rianna Dean and Emily Kraft have both been brought in to boost the front line while Atlanta Primus comes in fresh from a first ever World Cup experience. Chloe Peplow has returned on a permanent deal while Molly Pike and Jemma Purfield both add WSL experience.

Southampton have made waves off the pitch too with the announcement of a first ever unique shirt sponsor. Starling Bank will adorn the front of their kit, the first time they’ve had a separate deal to the men’s team.




2022/23 finish: 11th

Predicted finish: 10th   

Player to Watch: Ellen Jones


Sunderland are a bit of a hard one to predict going into this new campaign.

Mel Reay’s side have experienced some turnover over the summer with ten parting ways with the club. The launch of a professional Newcastle saw Emma Kelly and Tyler Dodds move over while young talent Neve Herron transferred to Birmingham. Abby Holmes, a Black Cats stalwart at times over the years, has moved back to Durham.

At the same time, there has been recruitment. Young Welsh stars Mary McAteer and Ellen Jones have both made the move with the promise of more first team minutes. Natasha Fenton has been lured over from Blackburn, bringing with her a wealth of Championship experience. Jenna Dear meanwhile will be looking to re-establish her name in England after spending the last few years overseas.



2022/23 finish: FAWNL Play-Off Champions

Predicted finish: 12th   

Player to Watch: Michelle Agyemang

Damon Lathrope’s side displayed their bounce-back-ability last season as they made an immediate return to Championship football. The league, however, has only progressed in their absence and the return may not be seamless.

Watford have retained 11 from the squad that earned them the promotion. Gemma Davison and Bianca Baptiste provide a wealth of knowledge while the young talent of Annie Rossiter will be looking to re-adjust to this level. Megan Chandler has been named captain after the retirement of Helen Ward who is now the club’s General Manager.

Harley Bennett, Coral-Jade Haines, and Lucía León are all solid recruits while Carly Johns comes in after an exceptional year in front of goal for Oxford United. Charlotte Fleming is another one that has potential, although she will need time to adjust after a long comeback from an ACL injury.

The Hornets strong relationship with Arsenal continues as the dual-registration programme kicks into gear once more. Michelle Agyemang, Laila Harbert and Katie Reid – all stars of the Gunners’ Academy – will be looking to play regular minutes in yellow this season as they continue their development.



All games can be watched live on the FA Player.


Barclays WC Opening Fixtures


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