Thirteen players remain at the club after being offered or continuing professional contracts post-promotion.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa Women are now gearing up for their debut season in the Women’s Super League after securing their promotion via a points-per-game metric in the midst of a global pandemic.
There has been excellent, exciting news coming from the club – as well as disappointing news, depending on who you may ask.
The club are set to play their home games at the Banks’ Stadium, Walsall’s home ground, next season and thirteen players have signed, or will continue professional contracts for the upcoming season. The Women’s side will also don the same shirt sponsor, Cazoo, as the men’s side next season.
Those leaving the club include club captain Kerri Welsh, often on-the-field captain Jade Richards, last season’s top scorer Melissa Johnson and homegrown talents Alice Hassall and Phoebe Warner. Charlotte Greengrasss, who had her season curtailed by injury will also be released.
Back-up goalkeeper Daniela Kosinska, who was signed on deadline day in January, and Austrian international Sophie Maierhofer, who appeared once before the season was paused, have also left the club.
This means that the retained list ahead of the Women’s Super League season has only thirteen players within the squad. Goalkeeper Sian Rogers and defenders Elisha N’Dow and Natalie Haigh will represent the club in the top tier, whilst rampant wing-backs Asmita Ale and Ella Franklin, who are both returning from injury also remain at the club.
In terms of the midfield, Marisa Ewers, who can also double as a centre-back continues her journey on the right side of Birmingham, as does talisman Emma Follis. Amy West, Nadine Hanssen and England youth international Emily Syme fill out the rest of the clubs midfield stock.
In terms of forwards, the club have retained wingers Sophie Haywood and Jodie Hutton and striker Shania Hayles.
The squad is by no means bare bones, but compared with the likes of neighbours Birmingham City Women, one may argue that at least eight new signings will be needed to be able to compete in the toughest league in English Women’s football in the approaching season.
Especially more prevalent due to the fact that many members of the squad have no experience within the Women’s Super League and with the added pressures of top flight football, injuries may occur more often and squad depth will be necessary.
First on the agenda is cover for number one Sian Rogers, who has impressed with her growth in confidence and in her performances in the promotion-winning season – with some fans calling for her involvement within future England squads. Sian needed cover from Kosinska this season briefly, and unless there’s an incredibly talented youngster in the Regional Talent Centre waiting to burst onto the scene, this has to be one of the first things ticked off the list for Gemma Davies.
Following that, there needs to be more power at the top end of the pitch. Wingers Jodie Hutton and Sophie Haywood are tricky players, and Emma Follis can play on either wing too. Shania Hayles had an excellent end to her season, deputising for top scorer Mel Johnson, but with Johnson leaving the club, Hayles will surely not be expected to lead the line moving forwards. Expect a striker, maybe even two, to come through the doors at Bodymoor Heath this summer to provide ample competition for that role.
That leaves five players, unless Davies opts to flesh out the squad with more, to offer depth, cover and competition in the defence and midfield.
It’s an exciting time to be a supporter of Aston Villa Women with the amount of support and investment that has gone into the side since the arrival of Nassef Sawiris, Wes Edens and Christian Purslow – as well as Eniola Aluko as a sporting director.
With the likes of Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood leaving Olympique Lyonnais Féminin – widely considered to be one of, if not the best team in Women’s Football – and returning to the Women’s Super League with Manchester City, the league is already gearing up to be tougher and more exciting than ever.
It’s just up to those who make the decisions at Aston Villa Women to continue the amazing work they’ve already started.