It is set to be a landmark season for the Women’s Super League in 2019-20. More teams than ever before will compete, while Barclays has become the league’s first title sponsor - signing a three year deal thought to be worth in excess of £10 million.
It will follow on from another successful World Cup this summer in which England reached the last four once again. 11.7 million people in Britain tuned in to watch the Lionesses’ face the USA in the semi-finals, making it the country’s most-watched television broadcast of the year.
All of this makes this season the perfect opportunity to start watching Reading FC Women on a regular basis. It’s set to be another exciting year for Kelly Chambers’s side, who get underway against Liverpool this Sunday.
Here’s five reasons to get behind the Royals...
Top four challenge
After finishing fifth in 2018/19, Reading Women will be aiming to climb back up to fourth this year to match their highest ever league finish achieved in 2017/18.
Despite increased competition from other teams in the division, the Royals are still well-placed to fight to achieve that goal. Grace Moloney is a safe pair of hands between the sticks and the defence includes youth and experience in the shape of Maz Pacheco and Jo Potter. Fara Williams (more on her later), Remi Allen and Jade Moore sure up the midfield, while Brooke Chaplen and Lauren Bruton provide the threat upfront. Another experienced head, Natasha Harding, is the new club captain.
They’ve recruited well in the transfer market too, bringing in Norway international Amalie Eikeland who featured at the World Cup, her compatriot Kristine Bjordal Leine and Wales’ Angharad James. The Dutch connection may be dead in the men’s team, but Maxime Bennink’s arrival from PEC Zwolle keeps it alive with the women.
It’s testament to the impressive rise of the club that they are now being tipped to finish so high (see below) having firmly established themselves as a top-flight side.
1️⃣ @ArsenalWFC— Sportswomen (@SportswomenSky) August 20, 2019
2️⃣ and 3️⃣ @ChelseaFCW or @ManCityWomen
These are @suesmith8 and @MontemurroJoe's #BarclaysFAWSL predictions, what do you think?
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Another FA Cup run?
Perhaps the club’s best chance of silverware this year is the FA Cup, the competition they reached the semi-finals of last season for the first time. The Royals came within touching distance of the final too, losing on penalties to West Ham United having taken the lead in normal time.
Their run to the last four included wins over Birmingham City and Manchester United, as well as a staggering 13-0 victory over Keynsham Town.
With just four games (all ties are decided on the day with no replays) separating WSL teams from Wembley, where the final has been held since 2015, a trip to the home of football seems much more likely with the women’s team than the men this season.
England’s most-capped player
Reading can boast a number of international players in their squad, but none more illustrious than Fara Williams, who has played more games for England than any other male or female player.
After not being selected for the summer’s World Cup, the 35-year-old came off the bench in the Lionesses’ two recent friendlies against Belgium and Norway to reach 172 games for her country - a remarkable achievement. Moreover, only Kelly Smith (46) has scored more goals for the women’s side than Williams (40).
Described as “one of the greatest footballers England has ever produced” by Phil Neville, the midfielder played for Chelsea, Charlton Athletic, Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal before joining Reading in 2017. Last season only three players scored more goals than Williams in the WSL, as she netted 11 times to win the Manager’s Player of the Year award for the Royals.
More games at the Madejski Stadium
Ever thought about going to see Reading Women but been put off by the fact that the home games are played at Wycombe’s Adams Park? Well, the next few months provide you with the opportunity to see them in action a bit closer to home.
The Madejski Stadium will host three games across October and November, with potentially more to follow later on in the season. This is already an increase from last season, when Kelly Chambers’s side played just two games in RG2 all campaign. This though proved to be a success, with over 2,000 people attending the game with West Ham in February.
On Sunday 20th October and and Thursday 21st November, the women will play their Continental Cup (League Cup) fixtures against Lewes and Crystal Palace at the Mad Stad - this is another competition they’ll have ambitions of going far in. Just before the second of those games, Bristol City will visit on Sunday 17th November in the WSL.
If you go along to those games and feel impressed, you might go away thinking that the trip to Wycombe doesn’t seem so bad. After all, it was worth it to see the men win on penalties in the Carabao Cup.
One of the best things about women’s football is that it is much cheaper to attend games. It will cost you just £6 as an adult to watch a Reading Women’s game this year, with children and concessions charged only £3. A family of four can enter for £12, while parking on-site at Adams Park is £2. It’s an absolute bargain.
Meanwhile, a season ticket that covers all 11 home games as well as all cup matches costs just £35 for adults, £20 for children and concessions, or £70 for a family of four. Some Championship teams will charge travelling Reading fans more for one individual fixture this season!
If you can’t make it to the games in person though, fear not. This season, the FA have introduced The FA Player - a digital platform where every single WSL match will be streamed live along with selected match highlights from the FA Cup and Continental Cup. All completely free.
Selected games will also continue to be showed live on BT Sport and the BBC (such as Reading’s game with Manchester City on Sunday 15th September), in addition to the Beeb’s weekly highlights show.
With already over 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ videos for you to watch including content from:— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) September 4, 2019
Sign up and download The FA Player NOW (yes it's free!)
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We’re aiming to improve our coverage of the women’s team this year, with monthly updates on how Kelly Chambers’s side are getting on in the WSL, Continental Cup and FA Cup. In addition, we’d love to publish more match reports, so if you are/will be a regular match-goer and are interested in writing for us, please get in touch by emailing us: firstname.lastname@example.org.