With all football fixtures postponed this weekend as a mark of respect to the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II, Reading FC Women will now have to wait over a month, until Sunday October 16, for their first home league match at the Select Car Leasing Stadium against Arsenal. Although understandable, it is a shame as there was a lot excitement for the season opener versus newly promoted Liverpool, and the Royals were all set for a record home attendance – and in excess of 500 season tickets sold.
It’s perhaps doubly frustrating in that this first WSL league home match fixture, against the Gunners, will now be screened live by Sky Sports, meaning the kick-off has been moved to 6.45pm. With a young crowd (with school the next day), this will no doubt be a missed opportunity for a bumper crowd and atmosphere to kickstart the WSL season at the SCL Stadium – on the back of what was a wonderful, well organised, fantastically supported and ultimately successful and victorious Euros 2022 tournament.
There is perhaps a lifeline and chance to rekindle some of this energy and enthusiasm via the Conti Cup, with the first Group E match against Tottenham Hotspur, kicking off at 2pm, live at the SCL Stadium on Sunday October 2.
Reading Women now start their league campaign with two away matches. Next weekend (subject to confirmation later this week) they are away to Manchester United at Leigh Sports Village – a venue used during the Euros 2022 this summer – and coincidentally where the Royals opened their campaign last season (with a 2-0 defeat). Any Royals fans looking to travel to the match will have an early start with this match also being screened live on Sky Sports, with a midday 12 o’clock kick-off, unusually on a Saturday – September 17.
It will be a tough opener for Kelly Chambers’ team against the Red Devils, who finished fourth in the WSL last season. Marc Skinner, the Manchester United manager, is expected to select a team from a squad that includes England Euro 2022 heroes Mary Earps (and former Royal!), Ella Toone, Alessia Russo and Nikita Parris, the latter recently joining from Arsenal. In addition, United have boosted their squad with seven new signings including international talent such as Aissatou Tounkara (French semi-finalist) and Adriana Leon (Canadian striker).
The Royals later travel to Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday September 25, 2pm kick-off. This fixture is also scheduled to be played at another Euro 2022 stadium, the impressive Premier League Falmer Stadium - rather than The People’s Pension Stadium, Crawley. It’s another tough away match with Brighton & Hove Albion just pipping the The Royals to a seventh-place finish (and one point advantage) in the league, and they have a squad that includes ex-Royals striker Danielle Carter.
Kelly Chambers will be selecting her team from a squad that includes Euros 2022 internationals Amalie Eikeland (Norway), Justine Vanhaevermaet (Belgium) and Sanne Troelsgaard (Denmark). Let’s also not forget Grace Moloney and Diane Caldwell who helped Ireland secure a World Cup play-off place for the first time in their history, and the Welsh trio of Gemma Evans, Rachael Rowe and Lily Woodham among a talented squad.
The Reading manager is the master of galvanising a team and she will need all of her skills again this season as with six new signings (below) - including the return of Becky Jane to the club. It’s seven new signings if you include the return of new club captain and Scottish international Emma Mukandi (nee Mitchell) following her time away from football as she gave birth to her baby girl Innes on November 15 2021 and her marriage in August 2022.
Off the field, it’s pleasing to see the return of Brooke Chaplen, who unfortunately had to end her playing career early due to illness, back at the Club as general manager, and we all wish her well in her new role.
Although it’s a delayed start (and a very long wait until the first league home match), if you can’t make the away matches of Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion, let’s get behind the Royals and cheer them on in the Conti Cup against Spurs! See you there.
- Brooke Hendrix
- Jacqueline Burns GK (Northern Ireland international)
- Lauren Wade (Northern Ireland international)
- Charlie Wellings
- Becky Jane
- Diane Caldwell (Republic of Ireland international)
- Emma Mukandi (Scottish International)
- Brooke Chaplen
- Natasha Harding
- Chloe Peplow (season loan to Crystal Palace)