Aston Villa Women have welcomed six new players to the club in the past week, as the club rebuilds following last season’s relegation fight.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa Women have welcomed six new players to the club over the past week, as the club’s rebuild continues. At the start of the summer, the club released a number of players, many of whom who were signed last summer for the club’s inaugural season in the Women’s Super League. A number hadn’t lived up to expectations, it seems.
At the start of the summer break, the club were without a manager following the departure of Head Coach Gemma Davies and her assistant, as well as the expected departure of Interim Manager Marcus Bignot. Aston Villa Women were then left without a sporting director, too, as Eniola Aluko moved onto pastures new with American side Angel FC.
In recent weeks, there have been movements, with new manager Carla Ward being appointed following her departure from local rivals Birmingham City. This was a strong move for the club, appointing a young manager who has received plaudits upon plaudits – namely being nominated for the Women’s Super League Manager of the Year last season – as well as succeeding in harsh circumstances at the other Second City club.
Of the players that departed, four were a part of the squad that achieved promotion from the FA Women’s Championship – Ella Franklin-Fraiture, Emma Follis, Amy West and Nadine Hanssen. Follis and West were both homegrown talents, but both had struggled to make an impact in the club’s first season in the top tier – while Ella Franklin-Fraiture’s injury record likely contributed to her release. Nadine Hanssen had played a significant role ahead of the club’s survival, but has in recent weeks revealed that she is expecting a child with her partner, Derby County goalkeeper Kelle Roos.
International signings from last season Caroline Siems, Diana Silva and Mana Iwabuchi also left the club, with Iwabuchi joining Women’s Super League side Arsenal Women. Stine Larsen also left a few weeks later, at the end of her contract.
Fans were, rightly so, worried ahead of the past week. Fifteen players remained at the club, with two of those being recent academy graduates in the form of Olivia McLoughlin and Freya Gregory. There were no rumours of new signings or rumblings of targets for the summer as the new season edged ever closer. Some fans did notice movements from Birmingham City, namely the departure of their goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, and put two-and-two together that their former manager may be sniffing around their signatures.
The first arrival came on Wednesday, in the form of West Ham Women forward Alisha Lehmann. A Switzerland international with three years of Women’s Super League experience under her belt at both the Hammers and Everton, the 22-year old is an exciting player who can play across the front three.
A day later, and Remi Allen of new Women’s Super League arrivals Leicester City Women had signed. The 30-year-old midfielder played a key role in the Foxes promotion, making 18 appearances and scoring five goals. Her footballing resume includes Birmingham City and Reading, with Allen no stranger to the Second City, as well as a call-up to the England senior squad and an appearance in a Women’s Champions League Semi-Final. She joined on a two-year deal, admitting she was “excited to be a part of the club’s progression”.
Another two-year deal followed the next day, with former Villan Sarah Mayling rejoining the club after a four-and-a-half year spell at Birmingham City. An Aston Villa fan, the 24-year-old has worked under Carla Ward at the Blues, with the manager stating the right-back – who can also operate as a winger – is “athletic, versatile and a player who can make things happen”.
On the same day, Aston Villa Women completed the signing of Everton forward Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah, who impressed in the Women’s FA Cup last season with a number of dazzling displays. The pacey 25-year-old, another option who can be deployed across the front three, is an exciting talent who will be able to add real threat in front of goal in a side which lacked such ability last season.
Yesterday saw another double signing, with Bristol City defender Meaghan Sargeant signing on a two-year deal. The 27-year-old was relegated from the Women’s Super League last season, but offers a versatile defensive option and experience of the Women’s Super League after playing at both Birmingham City and Bristol City in the last seven years.
Perhaps the biggest signing of the window so far, Hannah Hampton (Pictured above) joined the club following her departure from Birmingham City just a few weeks ago. The goalkeeper, who has over 60 Women’s Super League appearances despite only being 20-years-old, received her first senior England call-up earlier this year, and is widely considered to be one of the strongest goalkeepers in the Women’s top tier. She’ll be battling with Sian Rogers and last season’s number one Lisa Weiß for the starting berth between the sticks.
The club has opted for top-tier experience and homegrown talent so far this window, almost echoing the approach that the men’s side has taken in their first two years in the Premier League. When international talent saw both clubs almost relegated, they have both opted for players they feel can make the step up to the highest level of football in the country, or players already experienced in the top flight.
There are likely to be a few more players that join the squad before the start of the season on September 3rd, and whether these are homegrown or international talents remains to be seen, but with a Head Coach looking to progress on a personal and club level, and the club receiving major backing from the club’s owners and CEO, it’s looking like a brighter season despite the vast upheaval that the staff and squad have faced so far this summer.