Richard Laverty previews each team before the FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL 1) Spring Series begins on April 22.
It’s fair to say Willie Kirk has more than stabilized Bristol City in his two years at the club. After losing many key players and any chance of success in the period after Mark Sampson left the club, Kirk couldn’t save Bristol Academy in 2015. But reform and a link up with Bristol City before their 2016 campaign got under way meant a big overhaul of the squad and the chance for Kirk to put his mark on the team. The mid-term signing of Claire Emslie was a particular boost and now Bristol are ready for a shot at the big time again.
Where to Find Bristol City
Stoke Gifford Stadium, Filton
Willie Kirk took the reigns at Bristol two years ago this very month and was immediately likened to former manager Mark Sampson by chairman Simon Arnold.
Kirk immediately went about preparing for life in FA WSL 2 and rebuilt the side into one capable of returning at the first attempt, recruiting the likes of Rosella Ayane and Millie Farrow on loan from Chelsea.
The 20-year-old striker had a torrid time with injuries last season, suffering a dislocated shoulder not once, but twice, during her first campaign at the club. Despite that, the talented goal scorer was still one of the top scorers in FA WSL 2 last season and has signed up for another loan deal to test her abilities at the top level.
Even at just 21, the Welsh midfielder has plenty of experience and quality and has been through all the ups and downs possible with Bristol. First joining the club as a teenager in 2011, Evans has also represented Wales at every level and has become a regular in the squad under Jayne Ludlow.
Arriving from Kirk’s old team Hibernian halfway through the year as an unknown quantity, Emslie hit the ground running in incredible fashion and almost took the golden boot despite only arriving in the summer. The winger was a terror for every defender she came up against and had one of her goals nominated for goal of the year.
One to Watch
The 21-year-old forward may not have the profile of some of her colleagues but her performances have been no less impressive. Fergusson regularly found the net during her time at Aston Villa and Kirk wasted no time in bringing her to Bristol at the start of 2016. Fergusson chipped in with important goals and will form part of an exciting attack alongside Emslie and Farrow this season.
It was a quiet start to the winter for Kirk and Bristol with the first arrival not confirmed until well into January. Grace McCatty departed to Durham but other key players — including Emslie — signed new deals for the Spring Series and beyond.
Millie Turner was the first arrival from Everton and was closely followed by midfielder Lily Agg from newly promoted FA WSL 2 side Brighton. Bristol also confirmed Chelsea duo Millie Farrow and Jodie Brett would stay at the club for the Spring Series.