FA WSL Preview – Birmingham City

The 2020/21 FA Women’s Super League kicks off on the weekend of the 5th / 6th September. D2B is here to preview all twelve teams in the title race and assess their chances. Last year we went alphabetical in presenting the teams, but this year we’ve plumped for reverse order of where each club was placed when the league was finally abandoned due to the COVID-19 crisis. Having looked at Championship winners Aston Villa in the previous article now we look at cross-city rivals Birmingham who narrowly avoided relegation last season…

Birmingham City Women Football Club

Rachel Corsie – The experienced central defender has joined the Blues on loan until Jan 2021.

Last Season: 11th of 12

Nickname: The Blues

Founded: 1968

Home Ground: Damson Park, Solihull (capacity 3,050 / 770 seated)

Inaugural members of the FAWSL in 2011, Birmingham have a good pedigree in the competition, finishing runners up twice in the early days and perennially challenging the top five even after Chelsea and Manchester City started investing serious cash from 2014/15 onwards.

Their fourth spot in 2018/19 was complemented by a record points tally but last season was entirely more of a slog. The Blues narrowly avoided the drop, helped in no small part by the COVID abandonment, but equally by Liverpool’s ineptitude in front of goal.

Birmingham were certainly no better than the Mersey-siders in that respect, scoring just five goals in thirteen league matches. Their goal difference was also significantly worse, but here’s the thing: they figured out how to win one more game. That game? A 2-0 home win over Liverpool.

Replacing prolific England striker Ellen White before last season began was always going to be a massive challenge and one that they couldn’t raise the cash to deal with – which was not surprising but also a bit sad because (bizarre coincidence or not), when Birmingham scored they always got points. All of their defeats were to nil!

Manager Marta Tejedor was sacked just days before the COVID suspension hit. That meant that interim replacement Charlie Baxter had no opportunity to get the Blues out of the hole they’d dug for themselves by footballing means.

He won’t get the chance now either. Recently, the Birmingham board moved to bring in Carla Ward as manager. Ward steered Sheffield United to 2nd place behind Aston Villa in the FA Women’s Championship last season. A UEFA A Licence holder, Ward won 34 in 58 matches with United and is rumoured to be bringing in at least eight signings for the forthcoming season to bolster a squad that has seen the same number depart.

The first to put pen to paper on a contract looked (to a ‘layman’ in women’s football like me) pretty underwhelming. The club announced on the 21st August that attacking midfielder Christie Murray would be joining from Liverpool. Murray is certainly not a poor player – poor players don’t generally pick up 66 international caps, albeit for Scotland (ok, I’m being mischievous ;-). But she only made two cup starts for a relegated club last season along with seven substitute appearances.

Attacking midfielder Christie Murray – in her Liverpool days.

“I’m really happy to be joining the Blues. After speaking with both (General Manager) Sarah Westwood and Carla Ward, I’m excited about their vision for the club moving forward and I want to play a part in that. I can’t wait to hit the ground running and get the season started.”

Christie Murray, Birmingham City Midfielder, via Club Website

Just as D2B was about to publish this blog update the Blues announced two more recruits. Central defender Rachel Corsie has agreed a loan deal from NWSL club Utah Royals. With 116 caps for Scotland, Corsie brings leadership and a huge amount of experience, but has only played one year previously in the English top flight when she captained Notts County. That was back in 2014, when she was highly regarded, but things have moved on a lot since then.

Chloe McCarron has also joined from Belfast club Linfield. The 22-year old holding midfielder can point to some Champions League experience and has played a handful of games for Northern Ireland. She helped Linfield win the Irish Premiership on three occasions and also has Women’s Premiership League Cup winner’s medal. Her National Team Coach believes the time is right for her to kick on in a tougher league.

“Chloe is one of the smartest players in women’s football. Her awareness of space and movement are distinct categories that she will bring to her new club. I am very excited by what she has to offer the WSL. Birmingham have hit the jackpot by getting her on board. I can’t wait to see her getting started and leaving her mark in the professional game.”

Kenny Shiels, Northern Ireland Manager, via Club Website

Of the departed, defender Georgia Brougham has gone back to parent club Everton, while American Brianna Visalli headed Stateside to look entirely more comfortable in a Houston Dash shirt as they won the 2020 Utah Challenge Cup.

Experienced striker Rachel Williams decided to seek other opportunities which also translates as ‘signed for Tottenham’. The 32-year old scored 43 goals in 94 appearances over two spells with the club, but her recent return hasn’t been good so Blues fans needn’t be overwhelmingly upset. Unless she hits double figures with Spurs next season, of course.

Once again they are going in a new campaign without a marquee international player. Box-to–box midfielder Lucy Staniforth joined Manchester United over the summer. She has worked her way into the Lionesses squad over the past few years demonstrating creativity, clever movement off the ball and fine dead ball delivery. She was the archetypal ‘good woman in a storm’, composed on the ball and capable of driving the team from the middle of the park. But it’s surely Staniforth’s tremendous stamina and unrelenting work rate that Birmingham will miss most if they end up being a club fighting for their WSL lives all season.

There are more signings to come, of course, but it’s looking like another season of struggle for Birmingham City as one more Premier League-backed team arrives and investment in foreign players across the division continues to ramp up. They need at least one proven striker desperately. Still, finish above the Villa and the Blues can claiming local bragging rights along with assured WSL survival for another year.

“This is a massive opportunity, Blues is a massive Club with a great history.  I’m a people person with a holistic approach that is very much based around the player. I’m a big believer, particularly in my playing days, if we’ve got the players smiling and confident and buying into what you’ve got to do then you’ve got half a chance. Straight away it’s about getting the players together and kicking on.”

Carla Ward, Manager, via Club Website

Departures

  • Brianna Visalli, Midfielder
  • Adrienne Jordan, Defender
  • Alex Brooks, Goalkeeper
  • Chloe Arthur, Midfielder
  • Lucy Staniforth, Midfielder
  • Kerys Harrop, Defender
  • Rachel Williams, Forward

Arrivals

  • Christie Murray, Midfielder
  • Rachel Corsie, Defender
  • Chloe McCarron, Midfielder
  • Georgia Brougham, Defender (on loan, after original article)
  • Jamie-Lee Napier, Midfielder (on loan, after original article)
  • Destiney Toussaint, Winger (after original article)
  • Mollie Green, Midfielder (after original article)

Earlier this year, we charted on the Feedspot Top 40 list of Women’s football blogs. No one was more surprised than us here at D2B Towers; there’s so much other good stuff out there. Anyhoo, check out the link above, there’s a heap of great blogs and websites written by people who really know their stuff and have an infectious passion for the women’s game…

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