With the FAWSL looking like unfortunately coming to an end for this season, Reading Women will end the campaign in the same position they ended the last.
The Royals and fifth place might become a rather familiar theme if things continue the way they do. Especially if Kelly Chambers’ team keep showing the signs of progression which has led to them establishing themselves in the top tier of English football.
It was clear from the end of last season and the start of this campaign that the Royals were never going to challenge for the title of the FAWSL, especially considering the budgets of fellow WSL top teams like Chelsea and Manchester City.
But finishing fifth for consecutive seasons, although not looking like much of an achievement, is a great success considering the competition in the league. As we see the seasons progress in women’s football, the standard is getting better and with a better standard comes fierce competition.
The fact that Reading Women have shown consistency to fight at the top end of the table in a competitive league is something to be celebrated rather than frowned upon. And who knows how far the women could have gone if the season had been allowed to finish amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With 21 points gained after 14 games and sitting only two points off fourth-placed Manchester United, a top-four finish was a possibility but we will most likely never know how that story would have unfolded.
But away from on the pitch, the biggest disaster of the season for the club is how the pandemic has affected and strained the financial resources available to Kelly Chambers’ side.
Reading FC (the club as a whole) have been one out of many clubs who have really suffered as a result of the pandemic. This has led to the Royals needing to furlough the whole women’s side and some of the U23s players.
The long-term effect of these cuts is yet to be known, but it would not be surprising to see the women’s side not making any signings when the transfer window eventually opens. The focus will be more on keeping vital players that make the women’s side tick.
Despite the downside of this season being financial problems for the club and a few inconsistent results, here are the positive moments that can be taken from this season.
No doubt that the star for Reading this season as always was Fara Williams. The midfielder marked her intent this season on the opening day with a lovely free-kick in Merseyside against her ex club Liverpool to give the Royals a flying start to the 2019/20 FAWSL season.
Since that opening game, the 36-year-old has had 10 goal involvements in total in 13 matches played in the FAWSL this season. She really is the anchor of the team and when Fara plays well, Reading always play well. The Royals cannot afford to lose her in the next transfer window.
Pushing big teams close and taking the occasional big scalp
Big questions coming into the season revolved around how the Royals would fare against the top sides in the league - the teams who have many top-class internationals - and on the whole the Royals have held their ground with some major scalps taken.
The most prominent came against the title favourites in the Continental Cup group stages. In that match, the valiant Royals took Chelsea all the way to penalties and beat them in the shoot-out. Other examples of the Royals really giving it a go in big games included the Continental Cup semi-final narrow defeat to now former holders Arsenal.
The fact that Reading can compete in games against the very best in the league who have spent much more money in their squads shows the great work that Chambers and her coaching team are doing with this crop of players.
Big performance and turnout on women’s football weekend
Arguably the biggest positive of the season was the high-scoring 3-3 entertaining draw on the new inaugural women’s football weekend against Bristol City. It was a historic occasion for many reasons, but the biggest was that no men’s football being on meant the Royals and other FAWSL sides had the full spotlight on them for the first time.
Besides not winning the match in the end, overall, it was a great and memorable day for the club on the whole that showed how far women’s football has come since the Women’s Super League was formed.