Reece Land: predictions for the transfer window and ones to watch next season
In the past couple of days, professional and semi-professional women’s football in England has finally got some clarity on how it will move forward into next season, due to start in September. There’s a lot more still to be resolved, but in the spirit of looking forward I want to use this column to share some of my thoughts on the upcoming transfer window and who to look out for next season.
Many people ask me on a daily basis which players to watch out for, both next season and in the future. It’s a difficult job for me to pinpoint specific players as my company represents many female footballers, but I’ll outline a few.
The transfer window
The current climate means that no one knows what the future of women’s football will look like. For that reason, I think this will be one of the quietest transfer windows in women’s football to date. I think a lot of players who would have been looking to move had the situation been different are now likely to take the safest option and sign contract extensions with their current clubs if offered.
I think this will be one of the quietest transfer windows in women’s football to date.
For those that aren’t offered contract extensions, and we’ve seen a lot of WSL clubs in particular announcing that they’ve released players lately, it might be quite a worrying time. Clubs and managers may not be sure exactly how their budgets will be impacted, but they definitely know the impact will be negative. That may mean that, although there are some great players available on free transfers, clubs can’t afford to offer these players the kind of money they want.
For players that aren’t offered contract extensions it might be quite a worrying time.
By the same token, I think we’ll see a lot of Super League and Championship clubs releasing players aged 28 or older, because those players will be earning more money than a lot of the younger players. Teams that need to reduce their wage bill may look to shift some of their older players and bring in younger ones to balance the books. I think we’ll therefore see a big swing in player recruitment ages and, come next season, we’ll see a difference in the average squad ages. There are many ways that clubs can balance their books and player recruitment will be the top of their agenda.
Players to watch
In three years' time I think Sian Rogers will be England’s number one goalkeeper. Since Gemma Davies has been in charge of Aston Villa, they’ve been pretty much unbeaten and Sian has been a massive part of that. Her stats are just unbelievable: she conceded next to nothing at the end of the 2019 season and carried her form into this season where she’s conceded very little. She’s still only 21-years-old and if she carries on progressing this way there’s no limit to how far she can go. I’m looking forward to her proving what she can do in the WSL next season.
Next season, I think Chloe Lloyd will be the best midfielder outside of the Women’s Super League. I haven’t seen many midfielders technically as good as Chloe. To watch a player not only control a game but manipulate and dictate a game is very rare in women’s football. I can’t think of any midfielder in the WSL that is better Chloe on a technical level. For me, she is one of the most underrated players in Europe. Next season is massive for her.
I think we’ll see Rose making a big step up next season. She’s only 19-years-old and I see Rose and Sian both competing for the England number one spot in the next three to five years.
There are many more players to watch out for in England next season, including the likes of Amy Goddard, Ocean Rolandsen, Caitlin Hayes, Annie Rossiter and more. I often feel that these players don’t get the recognition they deserve simply because they aren’t playing in the WSL.
I’ve never seen anyone at the age of 17 hold their own in senior football as well as Kathleen McGovern does. In terms of an out and out striker, I think she’s one of the biggest prospects in women’s football right now. She’s someone that will guarantee you 20 goals a season – in her first season for Celtic (2018/19) she got 26 in 38 appearances. She’ll come on leaps and bounds working with manager Fran Alonso next season. In five years’ time I think she’ll be one of the biggest names in women’s football, to the level of Alex Morgan or Megan Rapinoe.
Like Kathleen, I think Sarah Ewens will carry on her form from last season. She was unplayable against Glasgow City in the first game of the season and I believe her game will go to another level working with Fran Alonso at Celtic this season. Last season she was the best player in Scotland in my opinion and I can’t wait to see her again this season.
Ella is already a full senior international for Wales and this season made the transition to Lewes having transferred from Georgia State University in the USA. She’s had a very good first season in the Championship and I think she’s got such an exciting future in football.
Similar to Rose Kite, I think we’ll see Olivia Clark competing for the number one shirt for her country – Wales – in the next few years. She’s had a good season at Huddersfield and is someone definitely worth keeping an eye out for in the next couple of years.
Manager to watch
The way that Gemma Davies set her side up this season and the performances they've produced have been a credit to her.
Gemma Davies has done an unbelievable job at Aston Villa. The way that she’s set her side up this season and the performances they’ve produced have been a credit to her. When you watch Villa, there’s a clear philosophy in the way they play and they’re just generally exciting to watch. I’m looking forward to watching Villa in the WSL next season.
Teams to watch in 2020/21
Women’s Super League
Everyone at Villa is pulling in the same direction: they want to be part of something.
Villa may be newly promoted but I can see them coming into the WSL and making a really impact, like Manchester United did last season. The infrastructure at the club is fantastic: if you’re attracting people like Eni Aluko to your board and convincing players like Emma Follis to drop down a league to play for you then you must be doing something right. Everyone at Villa is pulling in the same direction: they want to be part of something. There aren’t many teams in the WSL that have such a vision or are integrated with the men’s team as much as Villa are.
Liverpool, Leicester, London City, Durham and Sheffield United will all want to be up there.
I think the Championship will be tough next season which is great news for fans because there’ll be so many teams looking to challenge at the top of the league. Liverpool, Leicester, London City, Durham and Sheffield United will all want to be up there and it’ll be interesting to see how many teams the FA will promote next season.
National League Southern
Yeovil have had a lot of barriers to overcome and their success is a credit to their infrastructure.
Yeovil are another team with a fantastic infrastructure. In Adam Murry you’ve got an owner that’s owned a League 1 men’s club, Bournemouth, taken them to the Premier League and made them sustainable. The model he put in place at Bournemouth is exactly the one we need to see more of in women’s football. The manager, Jamie Sherwood, has also got a great track record, having got Yeovil promoted to the WSL in 2016 in his first stint as manager. Yeovil have had a lot of barriers to overcome: from being demoted due to finances, to their location which is in the middle of nowhere. It’s a credit to the infrastructure, the owner and the manager that Yeovil have been able to attract players like Chloe Lloyd, or Sarah Wiltshire who came from Tottenham and just scores goals for fun, and be so successful.
National League Northern
Everything is set up for Nottingham Forest to continue driving forward.
The National League Northern is always going to be hard when you’ve got Sunderland in it, but I think Forest will be the ones to beat next season. It looks like they’ve come from nowhere but it makes sense when you consider the infrastructure they’ve got, the fact that they’re integrated with the mens team, the players all really enjoy it there and they’ve got a manager in Andy Cook who has experience of managing at a high level. Everything is set up for them to continue driving forward. Other clubs are taking notice of what they’re doing too - general manager Lee Billiard recently moved to Bristol following the brilliant work he did at Forest.