Richard Laverty previews each team before the FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL 1) Spring Series begins on April 22.
Reading did more than enough last year to outlast rivals Doncaster Rovers Belles and buy themselves another year in FA WSL 1. Looking at recruitment over the winter, Kelly Chambers’ side might be here to stay for longer than that although they have lost a couple of big players to go with it.
Reading came up despite losing key player Fran Kirby during the 2015 campaign but the Royals have more than made up for that with good signings and the ability to be solid in defense. Now it’s time to see how far they can progress.
Where to Find Reading
Adams Park, Wycombe
One of three female managers in the top division of football, Chambers’ achievements last year are made even more impressive by the fact the manager gave birth during the campaign and was still able to manage a newly promoted side to survival.
Chambers has shown she can set up a side with a solid back line at the top level and her signings over the winter have been more than stellar.
The 24-year-old goalkeeper can probably count herself unlucky not to be part of Mark Sampson’s squad for the Euros when you combine her form and regular appearances in the Lionesses squad during Carly Telford’s absence. But the keeper reminded everyone what she could do with a good performance at Man City in the FA Cup and Earps is only going to get better.
Mandy van den Berg
What a coup it was when Reading announced they’d poached Netherlands captain Van den Berg away from Liverpool after just one season in Widnes. All being well, Van den Berg will lead out her nation at her home Euros this summer but first has a Spring Series to look forward to. Strong in the challenge and good on the ball, the defender is a top acquisition.
Another new signing under Chambers this summer, Chaplen has proven herself at the top level for both Everton and Sunderland, regularly chipping in with goals even when her teams have been struggling. An able passer with the ability to get forward into the box like Van den Berg, Chaplen looks to be a real coup for Reading.
One to Watch
At 25, the striker certainly isn’t one of the youngest candidates for “One to Watch” criteria but with Emma Follis gone and Helen Ward also out of the door, the attacking responsibility at the moment lies on Fletcher’s shoulders. One of several Welsh internationals in the squad, Fletcher has a chance now to position herself as Reading’s go-to striker ahead of the full season in September and share goal-scoring responsibilities with star Lauren Bruton.
While several signings have already been alluded to, Reading have been busy throughout their winter strengthening ahead of the new campaign. There’s still a striker shortage at the club after the departures of Ward, Follis, and Jade Boho Sayo.
Shelly Provan, Lois Roche, Amber Stobbs, and Laura May Walkley also departed while Nia Jones headed for Yeovil but the additions of Van den Berg, Chaplen, and Sunderland’s Rachel Furness have added real quality to the squad. New Zealand defender Anna Green has also joined and young star Charlie Estcourt has signed her first pro deal, and the Royals also tied down Earps to a new deal, too.