FA WSL Preview – Bristol 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 relegation avoiding Birmingham City in the previous article now we look at Bristol City, who were also fighting for their lives before Coronavirus struck…

Bristol City Women’s Football Club

Tanya Oxtoby, looking to push Bristol City forward at their new Twerton Park home.

Last Season: 10th of 12

Nickname: The Vixens; the Robins

Founded: 1998 as Bristol Rovers W.F.C.

Home Ground: Twerton Park, Bath (capacity 3,528 / 1,006 seated)

As Bristol Academy (renamed in 2005), the Vixens were members of the original Women’s Super League for the 2011 season and finished a club best 2nd behind champions Liverpool two years later.  Relegated in 2015, they bounced back into the top-flight, at the first time of asking, with a new name: Bristol City.

They are another Super League club on the move. After nine years at the Stoke Gifford Stadium, Bristol City will play their home games at Twerton Park. Ah, D2B remembers it well having watched AFC Wimbledon (men) play Bath City there back in our Conference South title winning season.

And the players won’t have long to wait long to partake of the pitch and facilities for a competitive game. Everton will be City’s first visitors on the opening weekend.

“Coming to Bath we’re hoping to attract an increased… fan-base if we can, so we’ve got to put the performances in to do that… we’re hoping to get some great home games in and when the fans are allowed back to get this place rocking. You go back to the women’s game and how much it’s growing, we need to make sure were growing with it so this is one of those steps in the right direction which is fantastic, there’s many more for us to take but were in a great position now. I know there’s been some positive feedback regarding the ground… so we’re really looking forward to getting here and making it our home and hopefully, turning our home record around a little bit.”

Tanya Oxtoby, Manager, via Club Website

Manager Tanya Oxtoby has a track record of bringing on good younger players – take someone like Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp as evidence of this in the WSL. But here’s the rub for a club like Bristol City, the minute a player develops to that next level a bigger organisation comes in and offers them the kind of life changing amounts of money that Oxtoby can only dream of forking out.

This seems to present two sorts of problems. The first obvious one is that all their best players keep leaving. But also it must be difficult to get any kind of squad stability with players on the move all the time. Well, this year perhaps not so much. Everton have taken a chance on promising full back Poppy Pattinson but a full-on raid of City’s talent pool hasn’t materialised.

Instead the manager released six players and one other opted for the Welsh league. Oxtoby moved to bring in just four players to supplement last year’s squad but Welsh winger Megan Wynne (who came in on loan halfway through last season) tore her ACL during pre-season effectively curtailing her campaign before it started.

Young midfielder Emma Bissell then became signing number five arriving from Manchester City having made just one League Cup appearance.

Of the other recruits, Oxtoby has persuaded Australian compatriot and former Perth Glory teammate Ella Mastrantonio to come in all the way from Western Sydney Wanderers. Mastrantonio is a combative and energetic box-to box midfielder who reached 100 senior appearances this year helping the ‘Red and Black’ to their first ever post-season playoffs in the W-League.

Midfield reinforcement – Ella Mastrantonio enjoyed a good W-League campaign with Western Sydney in 2019/20

“[T]he Barclays FAWSL is the best league in the world at the moment… you see all the Matildas plying their trade now over in the European countries and leagues, so I think it was the time for me. After a decent season with the Wanderers I [am] about the age to really test myself against the best players and the best teams in the world.”

Ella Mastrantonio, Bristol City Midfielder, via Club Website

Wingback / wide midfielder Jemma Purfield has made the move from Liverpool on a two-year deal and Aimee Palmer has also come in to complete the midfield shake-up. At just 20 years of age, Palmer arrives on the back of two excellent seasons in the FA Women’s Championship with Manchester United and Sheffield United respectively. Fans will be interested to see how she steps up.

There are a couple of important retentions. The Vixens shipped more goals than anyone last season, although in fairness only the well-monied top three sides gave them a hammering (there was a particularly nasty 11-1 defeat to Arsenal that City fans probably won’t thank me for bringing up).

So, with fixtures against the other sides likely to be tighter affairs how important is it that goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley is staying on? Still only 23, this terrific young keeper has made 69 senior WSL appearances, won a WFA Players’ Player of the Year award and was named in the 2018/2019 PFA Team of the Year.

At the other end of the pitch another player with England youth caps started to deliver on her potential last season. Ebony Salmon made the top ten list of strikers in 2019/20 with 5 goals including a really well taken winner against her former club Manchester United.  Still only 19, Salmon has racked up 24 career strikes to date and will be hoping she’s about to have a break out season – something that would leave Vixens fans with mixed feelings, given the propensity for bigger clubs to come sniffing around their top performers.

Hopes will remain high that former England U-21 striker Charlie Wellings will deliver a few more goals as it’s not quite happened for her yet. And it shouldn’t be overlooked that Australian international Chloe Logarzo only got to feature once for Bristol City before last season was curtailed, so she’s effectively a new signing. The 25-year old midfielder brings NWSL and Australian W-League experience to a squad that needs some creative impetus and an outlet to put opponents on the back foot more.

The summer transfer activity suggests that Oxtoby felt midfield was the area that needed the bulk of the work to improve their WSL standing. While the knock on effect of this improvement may be to reduce some pressure on the backline and provide a bit more forward momentum Bristol City look likely to remain a side in the bottom half of the division with another relegation battle looming if they don’t get a few points on the board early.

Departures

  • Olivia Chance, Midfielder
  • Jeon Ga-eul, Forward
  • Eartha Cumings, Goalkeeper
  • Poppy Pattinson, Defender
  • Frankie Brown, Defender
  • Katie Robinson, Forward
  • Loren Dykes, Defender

Arrivals

  • Ella Mastrantonio, Midfielder
  • Aimee Palmer, Midfielder
  • Megan Wynne, Winger
  • Jemma Purfield, Defender / Winger
  • Emma Bissell, Midfielder
  • Benedicte Haaland, Goalkeeper (after original article)
  • Laura Rafferty, Defender (Loan, 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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