Reading Women will be looking forward to their first season in the top flight. Enjoying the experience and the extra attention will be important, as well as looking to Sunderland as an example of what a team new to WSL 1 can achieve in their first season.
Reading were the swashbuckling title-winners of WSL 2 last season. Their 61 goals came at an average of 3.4 per game, whilst they also had the equal best defence with Doncaster Belles, conceding just 15 at less than a goal a game.
Not even the loss of Fran Kirby, who scored 11 goals in the five games she played before her big-money move to Chelsea, could halt their charge, with Emma Follis filling in with 12 goals from her 15 games, and Helen Ward adding a further eight.
This upcoming season sees a change of venue for Reading though, as they leave Rushmoor Community Stadium in Farnborough and will now be based in Wycombe at the larger Adams Park.
Hopefully the larger ground and top-flight status will offset any potential loss of crowd caused by the relocation.
Kelly Chambers joined Reading at the age of 12, spending most of her career at the club captaining them on the field.
She was forced to retire in 2012 due to an ACL injury, and has been part of the first-team coaching set-up since, working under Jayne Ludlow before taking full charge for the 2015 season and guiding her side successfully to the WSL 2 title. Her presence doubles the number of female coaches in WSL 1.
Reading have brought in the impressive Jade Boho-Sayo, who was unable to help Bristol City survive last season, to bolster their attack and ease the pressure on Follis to score.
Mary Earps joins her in making the move from the South West, with her arrival to add some experience in goal and bolster the backline for the new season.
Kayleigh Hines from Oxford United and Amber Stobbs from Washington Spirit are their other new signings for the season.
Survival the aim
Reading’s aim for this upcoming season is survival. For a young squad going full-time it will be a big challenge, and their first game away to Arsenal may provide an indication of how they will cope with the season ahead.
Last season they were the only WSL 2 side to get to the FA WSL Cup quarter finals, and though they didn’t beat any top flight sides, they pushed Arsenal and Chelsea close in the group stages before losing to Notts County the quarter finals to a late winner. Those results should give them confidence that they can compete with the top sides.
Scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem for this side, and the key to whether they can survive will be how their defence copes against the stronger strike-forces in WSL 1. Eighth place would represent a success, and anything above that would be a bonus.