A far cry from the team who found themselves second in WSL 1 in 2013, the Vixens struggled with losing key players, those left part-timers who couldn’t cope with the professional teams in the league.
A seventh-place finish in 2014 the foreshadow of the following year’s relegation. The drop into WSL 2 brought about changes on and off the pitch for Bristol, the Academy tag dropped as they raised their affiliations with the City side of Bristol – arguably alienating a few Rovers fans in the process.
Ins and outs
Despite a heavy number of injuries, specifically to the more experience members of Willie Kirk’s squad, the team fell into step with the new league and consistently looked like one of the teams to beat, ultimately finishing second on goal difference.
Key signings and loan-signings made ahead of the 2016 a huge factor in their superb season and whilst Kirk can’t rely on the likes of Claire Emslie (transferred to Manchester City) or Jodie Brett (returned to Chelsea and subsequently signed for rivals, Everton) the team have been busy.
Given a healthy boost from the continent, the Belgian trio of Yana Daniels, Julie Biesmans and Lorca van de Putte will add something different in each third of the pitch, Dutchwoman Danique Kerkdijk the other new face to WSL.
As well as the internationals Bristol have seen loan moves for Sophie Baggaley and Charlie Estcourt, Carla Humphrey the other new face to the Stoke Gifford.
As well and new and improved contracts for the bulk of the team, the moves have been in both directions, after the Spring Series with Bristol, Lily Agg has left for FFC Frankfurt, Megan Alexander, Georgia Evans, Hayley Ladd, Katie Jones and Paige Sawyer have all left, Alexander to Millwall, Evans and Sawyer to Yeovil and Ladd to Birmingham.
A player who falls into both categories, Corinne Yorston agreed new terms with the club before leaving on a season-long loan to Oxford United.
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Whilst the Spring Series brought little joy in terms of points – the Vixens finishing one from bottom with just one win all Spring – the experience would have been invaluable for the young side. Kirk and co’ afforded a taste of WSL 1 life without consequence, the team undoubtedly stronger for the dry-run.
Though the team are unlikely to be anywhere near the top half of the table they’ll have more than a slight chance against the [likely] bottom pack of Everton, Sunderland and Yeovil.