WSL 2018-19 season preview: West Ham United
Credit: Joerdeli Photography | Daniela Porcelli

WSL 2018-19 season preview: West Ham United

Can Matt Beard work his magic with another WSL team?

Sophie Lawson

Bar two players, West Ham are venturing into WSL as an entirely new team, with a wealth of quality in their ranks and a proven coach, there’s plenty of reasons for fans to be hopeful of a fruitful season.

Like the Phoenix

Following a handful of dismal seasons in the third tier, the Hammers found themselves making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The bad feeling smoothed out as the team was brought back under the watchful eye of its parent club, the results markedly improving with the changes behind the scenes.

The team not just climbing the table but claiming silverware in the shape of the WPL Plate last season, things blossoming both on and off the pitch for the London club. With the bidding process for WSL berths open, the Hammers’ continued investment saw them awarded a spot in the top flight, with work to be done before the start of the season.

Much like his new team, new coach, Matt Beard was given the chance at a fresh start after a turbulent spell in the NWSL with the Boston Breakers. Whilst the team had little joy on the pitch, the experience clearly had a positive impact on the WSL-winning manager, helping him grow in his role, the chance to take over the rebooted Irons an almost-tailor made role for Beard.

Ins and… ins

With a squad that had been competing if not setting the world alight in the third tier, there was little surprise to see a mass overhaul this summer, with all but two (Rosie Kmita and Vyan Sampson) of the former team leaving for pastures new.

Somewhat of a revolutionary during his early days at Liverpool, Beard has continued to cast an eye across Europe as well as the US when assembling his new squad. Along with Chelsea trio Becky Spencer, Claire Rafferty, new captain Gilly Flaherty and Manchester City duo Tessel Middag and Jane Ross, the last familiar names to WSL fans will be those of Anna Moorhouse who signed from Arsenal and long-term Hammer at heart, Kate Longhurst (Liverpool).

Boosting WSL’s growing Dutch contingent Esmee De Graaf and Lucienne Reichardt were brought in from Zwolle and Ajax respectively with Ria Percival and Alisha Lehmann both making the move from the Swiss Nationalliga A. Americans Brianna Visalli and Erin Simon signed from the Red Stars and Sky Blue respectively as countrywoman Brooke Hendrix said ciao to Brescia. Leanne Kiernan (Shelbourne) and Julia Simic (SC Freiburg) the last two pieces of the puzzle, ensuring enough depth across the width of the pitch with plenty of experience as well as young prospects waiting to make their mark.

Slow and steady wins the race

The most likely outcome for the Hammers, is a modest start to life in WSL. To put together an entirely new squad, with players from all over the world with different styles and ask them to click right off the bat isn’t something any manager could pull off. There is likely to be a bedding period of a few months whilst everyone gets used to the way their manager is asking them to play as they adapt to each other and the rigors of the league.

Although the team shouldn’t ever set out to take anything less than a win from each game, it’s more than likely that there will be some stinging losses along the way. But, as can be seen all around the world, there is always a longer term plan in action.