Aside from a blip in 2015, Birmginham City have consistently been one of the top sides in WSL despite not being affiliated with a big men’s club, but with David Parker’s tenure up and Marc Skinner in charge since his departure, things aren’t as steady at Solihull Moors as once they were.
Despite losing a number of long-standing players such as Jo Potter, Jade Moore and Remi Allen, the Blues seemed to be coping more than fine over the 2016 season under Parker but more departures over the winter have seen the side take another hit. With Kirsty Linnett and Mel Lawley gone the team has lost a touch of bite, however with Skinner having brought in Rachel Williams and Ellen White from Notts as well as Emma Follis the team looks steady as ever up top. Well known for their passion for putting faith in development players and seeing them graduate to first team regulars, there always seems to be a strong supply of less experienced options.
Whilst the team still relies on its keen defensive strength – Aoife Mannion and Jess Carter two young defensive stars in the making – Skinner is keen for the side to attack more. This was a tactic seen throughout the Spring Series, however, for every side to switch from a more defensive game to something more balanced is no mean feat. And as seen during the Spring the transition was a struggle for the Blues, the team looking defensively slack as they muddled through remembering how to attack. Their ten goals conceded in eight Spring Series games a glaring rise from 13 over the entire sixteen-match 2016 season.
Aside from seeing Sophie Baggaley, Coral Haines and Chloe Peplow off on loan, there has been little movement in the Midlands, the team taking a hit as talented youngster Ellie Brazil – who featured heavily in the Spring – has left for Italian champions, Fiorentina. Going the other way, just Maddy Cusack and Hayley Ladd have come in, longer deals for key players the main concern of Skinner.
But where does this all leave the Blues? There is no question the team can perform, a glittering cup run that saw them knock-out heavyweights Arsenal and Chelsea a reminder that they know how to balance a game for 90 (or 120) long minutes. For a team that’s been entrenched in a defensive mindset for so long, it will, undoubtedly take more time for them to grow and adapt to attacking with more frequency, attempting to possess the ball more. Whether between youth and experience or defence and attack, Birmingham’s season will likely be a balancing act but they could still be one of the top teams in the country and the ability of the side make them a delicious prospect to watch.