WSL 2018-19 season preview: Bristol City
Credit: Billy East Photography

WSL 2018-19 season preview: Bristol City

How will the new-look Bristol fair this season?

Sophie Lawson

A squad that has seen a huge overhaul over the summer, Bristol City have made themselves an unknown quantity this season, though with two wins and a draw from their first three competitive matches things are looking bright for the Vixens.

Ins and outs

Following a solid enough first season back in the top flight, Willie Kirk left fans stunned when he announced his departure from the Stoke Gifford early in the summer, the club taking their time before announcing Tanya Oxtoby as his replacement.

Leaving for Manchester United, Kirk was soon reunited with Aimee Palmer and Millie Turner in Leigh as eye-catching attacker Lauren Hemp moved to Manchester City. Scattering across the country, Millie Farrow moved to Reading as Ellie Wilson joined the Bees and Olivia Fergusson sighed for Yeovil Town. Staying in the mix in WSL, Yana Daniëls and Jasmine Matthews left for Liverpool as Chloe Arthur moved to Birmingham City.

Needing to rebuild, Bristol fast amassed a talented squad bringing Sophie Baggaley back on a permanent basis following a solid loan the previous season as Gemma Evans moved up from Yeovil, Ali Johnson joined from Liverpool and Ella Rutherford made a late switch from Millwall. Looking further afield, Katie Rood signed from Juventus as Rosella Ayane returned to England after a stint with Apollon Limassol and Finn, Juliette Kemppi moved from Norwegian side Kolbotn. Still utilising youth well, Republic of Ireland international Heather Payne joined from Peamount United as Eartha Cummings and Lucy Graham moved from the SWPL with Manchester City’s Poppy Pattinson rounding out the bunch.

New manager, new team

Formerly an assistant at Birmingham City, Oxtoby’s resume is an impressive one with highlights in both England and her native Australia. A sports psychologist, it’s clear that the young manager will have a clear impact on her charges in Bristol, the team expected to hold Australian possession-based football values in high regard.

One of the “smaller” sides in the division that leans heavily on younger players, the team has already showed their edge on the pitch with a draw against Leicester City and a win over Sheffield United in the league cup. Clearly needing time to galvanise on the pitch, to find their top level, which each player understanding the style as well as their teammates, the Vixens have started life out in the new-look league on the right foot with an away win over Brighton thanks to a rocket from young Graham.

Without a great deal of depth and limited resources, the first goal should be safety however, there is enough quality across the Bristol squad that the team aren’t getting pulled into a relegation dog-fight.