And to be honest, pours doesn’t really do what is happening at Doncaster Belles justice right now. As if a 25-year-old first-time manager needed any extra hindrances trying to keep her struggling side up, Emma Coates sat through another painful defeat on Saturday evening and lost two more players to injury to stick the boot in.
It’s a mark of Belles’ team spirit that both players left the pitch in tears, Emily Simpkins having tweaked a hamstring and Jess Sigsworth to what looked like a more serious injury to her knee. Simpkins wasn’t the victim of a horrific injury; her distraught was just a clear mark of what it means to not be able to help her team in their hour of need. For Sigsworth, it was one of the most painful sights to see her try desperately to continue almost on one leg before collapsing holding her knee on the side of the pitch.
But morale isn’t low, at least if it is they’re not showing it. Players mingled happily with friends and family postmatch and tried to keep one another’s spirits up but the last thing they need now is a double-header against league leaders Manchester City. September 1 is also looming large in a make-or-break game at home to Sunderland.
Continental Cup Final
It didn’t go down well when The FA announced last month that this year’s Continental Cup final would be held at the CFA, the home of Manchester City Women and the potential favorites to lift the trophy in October.
At the start of the season, FA Women’s Super League clubs were invited to bid to host the final but many chose not to for financial reasons. Although clarity from several clubs I spoke to was hard to come by, some just weren’t interested while others were adamant they’d take a loss by arranging to host the final at their own ground. But a senior source at Manchester City told me, “Why would we bid to host a final that could potentially be between two of our main rivals and make a loss whilst doing it? It would be ridiculous.” Quite.
For all the (justified) worries about a team possibly playing a final at their own ground, the CFA isn’t a bad choice for the final if it had to go to a WSL team, even if it did come down to a lack of plausible bids from elsewhere. Attendances for recent finals just about match up enough to ensure the CFA will look almost full on TV, the stadium and facilities are the most modern in the league, and it’s located just five minutes on the tram from Piccadilly station.
Transfers Never Stop
Already attentions are starting to turn to the winter transfer window with it set to be one of the busiest and unpredictable windows the FA WSL has ever experienced for many reasons. Firstly, teams will want to get players into their new team in time for the first 2017 Spring Series next February. Secondly, with squads becoming more stacked, players all around the league will be looking to make sure they’re in the best possible position to earn a call-up for EURO 2017, English or otherwise. Mark Sampson now has more options than ever in attack and 17-year-old Georgia Stanway is starting to give him yet another issue after her superb hat trick against Sunderland on Sunday. With Eni Aluko and Toni Duggan missing from the most recent squad against Serbia, it shows the options Sampson has available and that nobody is safe from the cut, the latter is coming toward the end of the three-year deal she signed back in 2013.
If Sunderland go down, there will undoubtedly be a bidding war for Beth Mead’s services next season while some players are now actively confused about when their contract expires since the league’s announcement of a winter division from 2017. One player I spoke to recently signed a two-year deal at the start of the season which is set to run out at the end of 2017, that would now mean her contract running out halfway through the 2017/18 season and pretty much every other player is in the same boat. It’s a sticky situation for clubs who may now be forced to hand out six-month extensions en masse sooner rather than later.
Despite The FA’s best efforts, there are still no immediate plans to host an international friendly at the national stadium before the end of 2016. Although there was hope of hosting a game during the October FIFA international window, seemingly the opposition Mark Sampson wanted for the game were unavailable and wouldn’t commit to the fixture.
The next best plan is for a game to be hosted during the gap between the Spring Series ending and EURO 2017 starting, sometime around June 2017 to make sure as much attention as possible is on Sampson’s side before the tournament kicks off in Holland in July. With England having already booked their place at the tournament, Estonia next month could be the last chance to see the Lionesses at home until next year.