FA WSL Preview – Brighton & Hove Albion

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 survivors Bristol City in the previous article now we look at Brighton & Hove Albion who managed to steer clear of the danger zone before Coronavirus struck…

Brighton & Hove Albion Women Football Club

Defying Gravity: Hope Powell, leading Brighton on another WSL adventure – photo by Paul Hazlewood

Last Season: 9th of 12

Nickname: The Seagulls

Founded: 1991

Home Ground: Broadfield Stadium, Crawley (capacity 6,134)

Brighton have quietly been going about their business over this COVID-19 summer. Manager Hope Powell has brought in five new faces to offset the eight players that have departed at the end of last season. And while the in/out count is in deficit the Seagulls still have 23 players named on their roster which unexpectedly makes them one of the bigger squads in the division currently.

Pre-season has been slightly underwhelming to date with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of relegated Liverpool following a 2-2 draw against ambitious FAW Championship club Leicester City.  Former Everton midfielder Inessa Kaagman scored in that match and the 24-year old ‘occasional’ Dutch international looks one of Powell’s smarter signings – it’s perhaps a bit surprising that she wasn’t offered a contract extension with the Toffees, but Powell was more than happy to snap her up.

New energy in the midfield – Inessa Kaagman joins from Everton – photo by Paul Hazlewood

“We’re really pleased to have signed Inessa, I think she is going to be a big asset to us. She has plenty of WSL experience and I first noticed her at Everton a couple of years ago. She will bring energy to the midfield and she is capable of scoring her fair share of goals too, which is an area we are looking to improve as a team.”

Hope Powell, Manager, via She Kicks Website

Felicity Gibbons scored the other goal against the Foxes, a bit of a collector’s item, and the full-back should reach her 50th senior league appearance for Brighton within a handful of fixtures.

The Seagulls were one of four teams that failed to make a one-point-per-game average last season in the wash-up. But they did at least manage to hit double figures on their goal tally (11), albeit having played at least two games more than their relegation rivals.  On the road they were brittle; only taking one point from their travels – that being a goalless draw with Bristol City.

At home they were entirely more robust (although D2B did witness them getting a hammering off the Arsenal in one of our visits to the Broadfield last year). Powell’s side ground out draws with Chelsea and Manchester United, beat both Merseyside clubs and convincingly despatched fellow strugglers Birmingham City (3-0) who they face on the opening weekend of the 2020/21 season.   

Attacking midfielder Aileen Whelan was a bright light scoring 6 goals in 22 appearances and will hope to reprise that performance as a minimum. Nigerian striker Ini Umotong matched those numbers but could only convert once in the Super League compared to Whelan’s five. It’s a shame that things haven’t worked out for the 26-year old at Brighton as she always looked more than capable of keeping two centre backs on their toes but couldn’t convert enough of the chances that other number nines snap up. Maybe it will click for her at Swedish Damallsvenskan club Växjö DFF.

Come the new campaign, Seagulls’ fans will finally get to see Rianna Jarrett in WSL action having arrived at the club just before the league suspension from Wexford Youths. Jarrett will have built some familiarity with Megan Connolly’s game on international duty with the Republic of Ireland so it will be interesting to see how these two link up week to week. Attacking midfielder Connolly struggled with injury over the first half of last season, but has hopefully enjoyed the benefit of the long, Coronavirus-enforced break to come back fit and firing on all cylinders.

Rianna Jarrett – essentially a new signing after last season was abandoned.

More attacking options have been secured with Lee Geum-min arriving on loan from Manchester City. The 26-year old South Korean didn’t get much of a chance to lead the rampant Citizens’ line last season, but early noises coming out from the club are that she’s impressing her new team mates in training.

Finnish midfielder Nora Heroum offers value through her knowledge of a range of playing styles from time in her home league, plus Denmark and most recently Italy – where she made 35 league appearances for AC Milan.  Her experience, then, may dovetail well with a group of Brighton stalwarts including captain Danielle Bowman, keeper Megan Walsh and midfielder Kirsty Barton who each have 100+ WSL starts. 

“I would say, and having spoken to other members of our staff, that [the players] have come back in better physical condition having had the break. The training has been really hard but they’ve been able to go again the next day and that tells me that their fitness levels have pushed on from last year. The demands of the league are ferocious, you can’t stand still and the girls have embraced that.”

Hope Powell, Manager, via Club website

Albion kick off their WSL campaign at home to Birmingham City on the weekend of September 5-6 which is a mouth-watering fixture as both teams will feel like there’s an early three points there for the taking and a bit of a psychological boost to be had. Twenty points will probably be enough to survive again in the WSL, but while the Seagulls were just about on track for that last season, nearly every squad in the division looks stronger. They’ll do well to match last year’s ninth.

Departures

  • Kate Natkiel, Midfielder
  • Sophie Harris, Goalkeeper
  • Fern Whelan, Defender
  • Maxime Bennink, Forward
  • Lea Le Garrec, Midfielder
  • Matilde Lundorf, Defender
  • Amanda Nildén, Defender
  • Ini-Abasi Umotong, Forward
  • Laura Rafferty, Defender (Loan, after original article)

Arrivals

  • Katie Startup, Goalkeeper
  • Katie Robinson, Forward
  • Nora Heroum, Midfielder
  • Inessa Kaagman, Midfielder
  • Lee Geum-min, Forward
  • Rebekah Stott, Defender (signed after original article)
  • Denise O’Sullivan, 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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