The new FA WSL season is upon us and what a season it looks like being with the significant acquisitions to the league of some of the world’s best female footballing talent this summer.
For Reading FC Women, the challenge has undoubtedly been laid down to not only maintain their run of consecutive fifth placed FA WSL finishes but improve on the that and challenge the ‘big three’ of Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.
The turnover of players at the Royals has been high this summer with several established names headed out the door, but the recruitment has been equally impressive with the likes of Danielle Carter joining from Arsenal and Welsh legend Jess Fishlock joining from the NWSL in America.
Football in Berkshire spoke to three supporters of the side, Rob McGowan of the @RFCWFans twitter account as well as our own Abi Ticehurst and Steve Gabb to get their thoughts on the season ahead.
How would you rate the club’s transfer business this summer? Who’s the standout signing for you?
Rob McGowan: Overall good, signed experienced and proven players at this level.
Abi Ticehurst: It’s all relative given how many phenomenal signings have happened across the WSL clubs in this transfer window, but given that the whole club was placed on furlough and eight players made their departure after contract expirations in June, to have brought on board the calibre of signings Reading have is a very exciting prospect as a Reading fan. In terms of standout signing, it’s an incredibly difficult choice between Danielle Carter and Jess Fishlock, they’re both players with such a wealth of experience both at club level and internationally. Carter coming from a rival team is massive but I think it will be Fishlock, given she’s spent time in the US, it will be interesting to see what kind of approach she will bring to the club because of this, and she’s very vocal in terms of gender equality in football which is great to see.
Steve Gabb: It was worrying seeing so many established players leave, but the signings of Mitchell, Fishlock and Carter have allayed those fears a bit. The squad does seem a bit light on numbers but the first XI is very good.
Which departed Reading player do you think the club might miss the most next season?
RM: Jo Potter, her experience and talking on and off the ball.
AT: Remi Allen, she’s had such solid form in the midfield for the team for the last 4 years.
SG: Jade Moore is obviously a big loss. However, it’s more the quantity of players who have left that might lead to issues.
Two fifth-placed finishes in a row, what do Reading need to do to improve on that this season?
RM: Being more organised at the back and taking their at goals.
AT: I think it’s already been done with the new signings, added some serious squad depth, it’s now about really utilising those players to the best of their abilities. The signings made by other clubs will also no doubt be motivation for the squad to push Reading on.
SG: It’s going to be really hard as the teams above Reading have strengthened. Improving the league results against the bigger teams will be important. Third place is a great target as that would secure Champions League football.
Which young Reading player do you think might break into the senior squad this season?
RM: Kiera Skeels.
AT: Emma Harries had a phenomenal 2019/20 season for the club 21 goals in 15 appearances so would be great to showcase her at some point. Niamh Reynolds looks one to watch too.
SG: Kiera Skeels looked excellent when she played in the cup last year. Lily Woodham is back at Reading after a season on loan. Woodham is the often forgotten fifth Wales international after Harding, Fishlock, James and Rowe!
What would be a satisfactory season for you?
RM: Finishing in the top 6.
AT: Winning the league of course! In reality, it’s going to be a very competitive season, so I’d love a top 3 finish, it’s certainly been brewing for the last few seasons.
SG: Even maintaining a fifth place finish would be a strong showing considering the pulling power of Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Which opposition player are you most looking forward to seeing in Reading this season?
RM: If we are able to play them Rachel Furness.
AT: Do I have to pick one?! Miedema is just so effortless on the ball and in front of goal for Arsenal, but there’s been so many insane signings this window. Pernille Harder for Chelsea, Mewis at City, Daly at West Ham, rumoured return of Lucy Bronze to City. I’m curious to see how our departures get on at their new clubs too, particularly Maz Pacheco.
SG: Vivianne Miedema is always a joy to watch.
How would you like Reading to line up on Sunday, 1 to 11?
RM: Maloney, Leine, Mitchell, Cooper, Bartrip, Harding, Williams, James, Carter, Chaplen, Bruton.
AT: I THINK this is the line up I’d like to see against Arsenal… 1 – Grace Moloney 2 – Kristine Leine 3 – Emma Mitchell 4 – Fara Williams 5 – Deanna Cooper 6 – Angharad James/Rachel Rowe 7 – Rachel Rowe/Angharad James 8 – Jess Fishlock 9 – Amalie Eikeland 10 – Danielle Carter 11 – Tash Harding.
SG: I’ll leave that one to Kelly Chambers.
Score prediction for Arsenal vs Reading?
RM: Arsenal 2 Reading 1.
AT: As much as I hate to say it Arsenal 2-1 Reading.