The FA Women's Premier League returns this weekend

Friday 19 Aug 2016
The FA Women's Premier League returns this weekend

Sporting Club Albion have got over last season’s FA Women’s Premier League Championship play-off final defeat with a change of name, ground and manager ahead of this weekend’s big kick-off.

But the newly-named West Bromwich Albion are not likely to have it all their own way in the quest for Northern Division success.

Brighton will play in The FA Women’s Super League from 2017 at the expense of Albion who, rather than lick their wounds, have made positive steps to ensure a renewed challenge, appointing Craig Nicholls as head coach and will play their home matches at Rushall Olympic.

They open their new campaign against promoted Middlesbrough, whose new faces include midfielder Courtney Corrie, signed from FA WSL 2 neighbours Durham during the close season.

Leicester City are the other new kids on the block, having won all 22 of their Midlands Division One games last term to secure promotion.

Striker Helen Busby, who hit 24 goals in 25 games in all competitions, will once again be charged with leading the line with Fylde their first opponents.

Like West Brom, Fylde have undergone their own rebranding over the summer, having merged with Preston North End.

They will play their home matches at the club’s new state-of-the-art, 6,000-seater stadium Mill Farm.

Manager Luke Swindlehurst, who has brought in Zoe Tynan from Manchester City, said: “We are looking to get into the WSL in the next 12 months or so and there’s an environment here for players to be able to compete with the clubs next door like Liverpool and Man City.

“Apart from Donny Belles and Man City, there probably won’t be a better stadium in women’s football.”

Winger Emma Rankin joined Blackburn Rovers last month from divisional rivals Bradford City, as boss Gemma Donnelly seeks to build a squad capable of improving upon last season’s third-place finish.

In the Southern Division, Charlton Athletic – who are unbeaten at home since May 2015 – welcome promoted Swindon Town to south London.

And boss Jeremy Parsons wants to hit the ground running.

He said: “We’re protecting a record at home and it’s one I don’t want to lose.

“We’ll go into that with the right mindset and see what happens.”

Crystal Palace have made a statement of intent with the signing of Northern Ireland international Ciara Sherwood and her former Millwall Lionesses team-mate Megan Goss.

Tottenham Hotspur, who reached three cup finals last term, have also signed several players with WSL experience, including 21-year-old defender Renee Hector from Watford and striker Cheryl Williams.

James Marrs, who led Brighton to the title last term, has taken charge at West Ham who will meet John Donoghue’s Lewes on the opening day, and are also likely to be among the front-runners in what promises to be the most fiercely contested Premier Division season yet.

By FA Staff