With a new season approaching on the summer’s horizon, Wales’ World Cup qualifying clash with the Lionesses looms but whilst Jayne Ludlow has named a largely unchanged squad to face England in Newport, at a domestic level, the changes have come thick and fast.
Like kids in a playground playing ‘got, got need’ with their football stickers, the clubs across both Wales and England have been swapping, trading, buying, selling and securing the signatures of the country’s finest talent as they prepare for the coming campaign; but pay attention, because this could get complicated.
In a nutshell, Sophie Ingle is a now a Blue but Rhiannon Roberts is a Red having linked up in Liverpool with her former Belles boss Neil Redfearn. Kayleigh Green has gone to Brighton, while two of her former Yeovil teammates have moved west to Bristol, who have in turn lost their loan signing Charlie Estcourt who heads east to return to Reading. Helen Ward has been awarded Watford’s captaincy, while Loren Dykes also pledges her allegiance to her club. The Swans have swooped to sign a host of up and coming international talent while fellow Welsh Premier Women’s League outfit Cardiff Met have nabbed Chloe Chivers and elsewhere on this side of the Severn, Cardiff City Ladies – not Cardiff City Women – have signed just about everybody else.
Got that? Thought not, so let’s slow things down.
Starting in Watford, Wales’ top scorer Helen Ward has been handed the skipper’s armband after years of faithful service to the club. Depending on your TV viewing preference, this summer’s buzzwords were either VAR for those watching the World Cup, or loyalty for those tuning into Love Island – and there’s nothing wrong with having a penchant for trashy TV, I know I do. On the contrary to claims on the show however, the real queen of loyalty is Helen Ward.
Joining Watford at the age of nine, Ward progressed through the ranks before leaving for Arsenal but having returned to her childhood club last year, Helen has been handed a new contract, the captaincy, and celebrated both with a hat-trick in a 5-2 thumping of Cardiff City Ladies, including her international team mate, Laura O’Sullivan.
For Wales’ own captain, dominant display after dominant display at the back for her country has earned Sophie Ingle a move from Liverpool to WSL1 champions Chelsea where she will begin her second spell with the Blues.
“As soon as I got the call from Chelsea, it was massive for me,” she told Chelsea’s website after putting pen to paper. “I enjoyed my time at Liverpool, but this is a new challenge and I think I’m ready for it. I need to push on with my career and I’ve come to a club that is the number one in England, winning plenty of trophies and I hope to do that here.”
She’s certainly starting off on the right foot as she played in midfield for Chelsea as they beat Brighton 3-1 in the Continental League Cup, ruining her international team mate Kayleigh Green’s day in the process
With a gap at the back, Liverpool were quick to fill it with another Welsh defender in the form of Doncaster Belle’s Rhiannon Roberts. Signing for the Reds, Roberts has linked up with her former Belle’s manager Neil Redfearn, who was unveiled at Liverpool’s helm earlier this year. Now both in Merseyside, the pair signed off their stints in Doncaster by winning the WSL2 and they’re now preparing to ply their trades in the top tier.
“This is a great move for me and I cannot wait to work with Neil again,” she told Liverpool FC’s website.
“Liverpool Ladies is a big club with real ambitions for the future so it was a move that I could not turn down,” she continued.
Unfortunately Roberts hasn’t got off to the best of starts after a narrow 1-0 defeat to newly-formed Manchester United Women in the Continental League Cup.
At the other end of the pitch, Wales’ star striker of the qualification campaign Kayleigh Green has scored a one-year contract with newly promoted WSL1 side Brighton and Hove Albion after her one at Yeovil Town ran out. Hitting the back of the net three times in her last two outings in the red of Wales, Green will be looking to do the same for the Seagulls.
“There’s a great interlink between the women and the men,” Green said. “The facilities are great and everything is under one roof – that’s something that you want as a player.
“It’s great to be part of a club that’s going into the Women’s Super League for the first season – this will be my second season in the top tier, so hopefully I can bring my experience to the team,” she added.
Green isn’t the only Welsh player to leave Yeovil for pastures new however, as defender Gemma Evans has also left the Glovers and joins Bristol City Women – where she links up with Loren Dykes, who has extended her stay with the Vixens. But while Evans has come in one door, Charlie Estcourt has gone out another as she returns to parent club Reading after a season long loan and will now be reunited with Rachel Rowe and Tash Harding at the Royals.
Fellow forward Hannah Miles has returned to home soil making the move back to Cardiff City Ladies, who will next season play in the FA WNL Southern Division. If you think that’s the only bit of business the club has done this summer however, think again.
In addition to Miles, Cardiff City Ladies have had a complete overhaul of their ranks. Keeping just a few players from last season, they’ve delved deep into the Wales Performance Squad to boost their own and have recruited an array of international talent at various age ranges.
Scoring a Cyncoed hat-trick, Cardiff have enlisted their former keeper and Wales’ number one Laura O’Sullivan, as well as striker Grace Horrell and Gwen Davies who broke into Ludlow’s plans during the Cyprus Cup.
Other signings include Nadia Lawrence, Amina Vine, Alice Griffiths, Kylie Nolan, Chelsea Jumratie and Ffion Morgan, as well as youth prospects Cerys Jones, Morgan Rogers, Poppy Soper and Cardiff Met’s top scorer last season Jas Simpson.
On the other side of the capital, Cardiff Met have replaced Simpson with 19-year-old Chloe Chivers who last season played in the WSL2 with Oxford. Thrown straight into the fray, Chivers’ first competitive outing for the Students came earlier this month in their Champions League clash with Romanian champions Olimpia Cluj, although an injury ruled her out of the rest of their campaign in Ukraine.
Down the road in Swansea, a summer signing spree has seen the Swans invest in youth after signing Welsh U19 defender Jess Williams from Cyncoed, as well as U16 prospects Ceryn Davies, Lani Hogben, Nieve Jenkins, Lauren Jones and Charlotte Arnesen-Williams.
Other movements within the leagues have seen Megan Wynne make the move from Millwall Lionesses to return to Tottenham Hotspur, while unfortunately Melissa Fletcher has been forced to take an early retirement from the game following two operations on her ankle.
With the paperwork signed, the ink dry and the obligatory snaps of players holding up shirts done and dusted, all eyes within the Welsh camp now rest firmly on August 31st where fate awaits.
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