Following on from another middling season, the Villainesses had begun to stagnate, a rash of new contracts and extensions handed out before the start of the Spring Series and still Villa found themselves finishing in the middle of the table – though not too far off of the pace at all.
Change at the top
After five years at the helm, long-serving manager Joe Hunt was replaced by Dave Stevens, Iain Sankey and Corrinne Mitchell brought in as first team coach and development coach respectively. But with the new faces in there have been heavy losses, Lucy Shepherd and Mollie Rouse off to America for university and Claire Skinner and Destiny Toussaint to WSL 2 rivals as well as Maddy Cusack off to join Sarah Mayling at Birmingham. Bethan Jewitt and Sian Rogers the only additions on the pitch during the summer window.
A comparatively young squad, fans can expect to see more players coming through the youth ranks and attempting to make their mark on the squad but for neutrals the team remains a question mark. With plenty of time under new coach Stevens, the team should have had time to implement his style of play but a team who struggles for consistency throughout the season, Stevens’ first task will be finding a way to maintain a high level over the months.
A spring to build on
Free scoring over the Spring Series, the Villainesses were firing them in from all over the pitch, defenders and midfielders well amongst the goalscorers, heading into a new long(er) season, that level of versatility could be crucial. With little in the way of depth for the up-coming season, Stevens will have to juggle his squad well over the upcoming season, an injury or two enough to severely weaken the team.
Boasting a team that have been together for years, the side should be well-glued and needing no time to get used to each other, a strong midfield spine likely to be crucial to tie the side together. Far from a new face to WSL 2 fans, Bethan Merrick remains as the one to watch for Villa, the 21-year-old’s vision bar none in the team. Naturally able to find her teammates and move play on, Merrick’s free-kicks consistently offer her team an out when in a tight spot too.
Off of the back of a healthy Spring Series the team should be able to barrel head-first into the new season and push for a lofty finish.