Sheffield FC Ladies general manager Helen Mitchell, hopes Club can make an impression on the FA Women’ Super League Two as she looks ahead to the biggest challenge the team has ever faced.
On Wednesday the club start their first season in the second flight of women’s football after being promoted in dramatic fashion following a last-minute winner in the FA Women’s Premier League championship play-off final against Portsmouth in May.
The club has had to wait nine months for the start of their first WSL2 campaign. However, Mitchell says the time off has been crucial for the Club to prepare for life in the Super League, with eight new signings to strengthen the squad and trhe retention of other key players.
Mitchell, who has switced from first team manager, said: “We’ve had to go through a fair few changes at the Club in preparation for the new season – both on and off the pitch.
“As well as recruiting new players and staff, we’ve also had to finalise our licence application, to make sure we’re fully ready off the pitch. There has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes but now the focus is on the football.
“There’s an excitement around the club for the team to finally get back to playing after such a long layoff.
“Of course, that also brings a few nerves – it’s hard to know what to expect. But we’re proud of what we’ve achieved in the last decade or so. Twelve years ago, we were playing in the bottom tier of women’s football. Now, we’re one of the top 19 teams in the country.
“That tells you a story about our sheer level of achievement and determination to succeed – a quality which will be vital this season if we are to compete.
“So yes, there’s a mixture of feelings about the new season, but predominantly we’re proud and excited to be competing against some of England’s best teams. It’ll be a challenge, but this is what we’ve all worked so hard for over the past few years.”
Club kick off against Durham Women at the Coach and Horses Ground, Dronnfield on Wednesday (Mar 27) at 7pm. On Saturday March 26 they are away to Bristol City at the Stoke Gifford Stadium (6pm).
Mitchell said: “We have a difficult start. Durham have recruited players from Sunderland Ladies, so they’ll be a really tough first opponent. We’ve then got Bristol Cityr, who were relegated last season from WSL1.
“Taking something from these two matches will be hard, but we’ll then have a month until our next match, against Aston Villa, to recover, reflect, and make any necessary changes.”
* Pen pictures of Sheffield’s eight new signings -
Juliana Draycott, 23, goalkeeper: Support and competition for regular No 1 Claire Wallhead. Has good experience in WSL with Notts Co and Lincoln.
Emma Lipman, 27, right back: Vastly experienced at WSL and WPL. Tall, strong and agile, bringing strength and experience .
Emily Owen, 21, centre back: Ex-Aston Villa, on Club ’s radar for several years, playing for Premier League rivals Sporting Club Albion ahead of move to Villa. Powerful and tall.
Sherry McCue, 21, centre midfield: Also ex-Villa, current England U-23 player recruited to bring energy and bite to midfield. A ‘scrapper’ who never shies away from a tackle.
Hannah Dale, 20, centre midfield: Another England U-23s player, and perfect complement to Sherry with a touch of class, creative and skilful on the ball.
Emily Roberts, 21, forward: Comfortable anywhere across the front three, but predominantly wide. Formerly of Doncaster Rovers Belles and Notts County, has wealth of WSL experience.
Hannah Cain, 17, forward: England U17s international, can bring youthful exuberance up front. Still part of Sheffield United Girls’ Centre of Excellence, an exciting prospect.
Rhema Lord-Mears, 20, forward: Man City Ladies youth product who joins Club from City’s academy. Experience at WSLeague development level. Will bring guile to left side of forward line, extremely skilful on the ball.
* For more information visit www.sheffield.fawsl.com