Following the Lionesses’ incredible Women’s Euros win, interest in the women’s game has never been higher – and Aston Villa have made the most of that on the opening weekend of the WSL.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
This summer – in case you for some reason have been living without any available news source – saw footballing history made. England’s female national team, the Lionesses, rose the highest at the Euros tournament they were hosting, to eventually lift the trophy and bring International football success back to these shores.
This weekend, history was made again – although on a smaller scale, all things considered. Aston Villa Women hosted Manchester City Women at Villa Park on Sunday during the opening weekend of the Women’s Super League, following a boom in interest in women’s football thanks to the success of the Lionesses.
Following a sizeable increase in season ticket sales, newer broadcast deals and a raft of transfers over the summer, Aston Villa Women smashed their previous attendance record with a 6,785 attendance – all while being live on nationally aired BBC Two.
Interest has consistently been growing in Aston Villa Women over the years. It was just a few seasons ago that the side were playing home games at Boldmere St. Michaels in front of friends, family and a diehard set of fans in the FA Women’s Championship (now The Barclays Women’s championship). Nowadays, the side play their home games at Walsall’s Poundland Bescot Stadium – a far cry from those days on synthetic pitches with limited seating in the stands.
Granted, promotion to the Women’s Super League assisted with the growing interest. But so did the signing of players like social media behemoth Alisha Lehmann – who has 6,000,000 followers more than the official Aston Villa Instagram account.
This summer, there was once again an influx of talent joining the club – but one name stood out among the rest. Rachel Daly. The 30-year-old versatile talent had just come off the back of starting every game at left back for England at the Women’s Euros, and produced an excellent performance during the final against Germany.
The signing was a coup for Aston Villa Women, and it meant that eyes were once more on the Midlands outfit, with Daly joining from NWSL side Houston Dash after such a huge tournament for the Lionesses.
With so much attention on the Women’s Super League, Women’s football and Aston Villa Women, they chose the perfect time for an opening weekend upset against Manchester City Women – a side that Carla Ward’s squad had never taken points from. While Manchester City are stumbling this season after a number of summer departures and a negative narrative surrounding head coach Gareth Taylor, Aston Villa had a poor pre-season and the onus was very much on the Citizens to win.
Intelligent pressing, well-timed attacks and two excellent goals from new signing Rachel Daly saw Aston Villa Women the talking point of the day – at least until Liverpool knocked reigning champions Chelsea down a peg a few hours later.
Such a shock result at the end of a seven goal thriller is perfect to continue to contribute towards the growth of the game and the growth of the support of the women’s Villa side. There’s already bound to be plenty of new faces watching the WSL regularly this season – but there may just be a few more following the performances of Daly, Dali and Lehmann et al this weekend.
Aston Villa Women take on Leicester City Women away from home on Sunday 25th September.