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FA Dispatch: Bright Future for Belles and Spring Series Updates

Tidbits from the England Women’s National Team, the FA Women’s Super Leagues (FA WSL), and behind-the-scenes looks into women’s football in England, both on and off the field.

Belles’ Future is Still Bright

With Doncaster Belles’ relegation now confirmed (almost), attention will soon turn to the next 18 months and mapping out their swift return to the top division.

The new schedule for 2017 means when Belles finish their season at Reading on November 6, the next time they can play an FA WSL 1 match will be September 2018 — almost two years away.

But the club has some really exciting youngsters coming through who will be key to its future. They need nurturing and they have a young, talented manager in charge of them in Emma Coates. Beth O’Donnell and Rebecca Rayner have recently made their debuts at the age of 16, Yasmin Mosby is 17, Sam Tierney has just celebrated her 18th birthday while Rachel Newborough and loanee Carla Humphrey are 19.

Coates admitted to me last week she has a plan for both divisions and now the WSL 2 plan will be put swiftly into action. Coates is smart; she’ll give chances to her youngsters who will be key to their return next year and the club are keen to snap Humphrey up on a permanent basis once the season is finished.

Humphrey has shown glimpses of her talent this year but would benefit from a season in WSL 2 where she can grow and flourish as a player; it hasn’t done the likes of Fran Kirby or Beth England any harm. Tierney already has experience in the division and it will prepare O’Donnell, Rayner, and Co. for the future — the club is excited, particularly about the two aforementioned players.

England Squad for France and Spain Friendlies

With another major tournament soon on the horizon, England’s Mark Sampson didn’t make major changes to his squad for the upcoming friendlies against France and Spain.

Sampson is now well into the process of picking the right squad to take out to Holland next year and while last year he had the freedom of calling up a few debutantes for the tour to China, this year’s end-of-season matches show all eyes are on Euro 2017 and the kind of teams England could face next summer.

Another issue is there are still more than 20 players on central contracts who are being paid more than £25,000 per year to play for England. While the central contracts may need looking at in future, right now it inhibits the freedom to bring in new players until the current deals expire at the end of each year.

With players desperate to go to the Euros and more players than ever pushing for a spot in the squad, these friendlies are crucial to who Sampson feels deserves (or doesn’t) a contract going into the tournament.

Transfer Wheels Already in Motion

With just a couple of games left in the 2016 season, teams are now beginning to turn their attentions to next year and there’s plenty at stake.

Looking ahead, 2017/18 is basically an 18-month season, starting in January 2017 and not ending until the summer of 2018 so there is plenty to plan for.

While Manchester City hold plenty of intrigue due to the nature of Nick Cushing’s deals, can the club conquer Europe as they have England with their current strategy of putting their faith in young, British talent?

Emma Hayes stated after their defeat to the champions that her side lacked physicality and the club have been planning their winter moves for a couple of months now. Arsenal know they need to tailor their squad a little and already know one big name will depart this winter while Liverpool are keen to add a proven, top-class No. 9 to their squad as soon as possible.

At the other end, Notts County, Sunderland, and Reading know they have a bit of a cushion now with two more clubs set to join the league next season, and whoever those clubs are will be keen to avoid a repeat of what Doncaster have failed to achieve in 2016. Notts, in particular, is in peril with as many as 11 players out of contract while the Belles will now put their WSL 2 plan into action and make sure they’re in a stronger position to challenge in WSL 1 again in 2018 should they bounce back at the first attempt.

With the Spring Series bearing no consequences, clubs could use the nine-match series to test new players, assess current players who need to leave — permanently or on loan — and further assess weak areas, which Doncaster and Reading didn’t get the chance to do. It could be key particularly for Yeovil, Bristol, or Everton so they can at least try to get up to speed coming from a part-time league to one filled with international stars.