A season of growth and progress, Hope Powell reflected from her Brighton training base as she prepares her side to tackle their final two games of the Women’s Super League season.
Akin to last term, mid-table Brighton have struggled for consistency at times, but kept pace with the league’s mid-tier clubs – hoping to at least match 2020/21’s sixth place showing.
For the Seagulls, it’s been a period of steady improvement since Powell’s appointment in 2017. A project she believes is only just beginning.
Their evolution has been synonymous with the growth of the women’s game more broadly; what began as a part-time community club in the 1990s is now a fully established top-flight entity.
Several changes have fuelled that acceleration, Powell believes, but none more so than the game’s accessibility which has skyrocketed in recent years.
Brighton, among other clubs, are benefitting from the consequential uplift in popularity, the former England international said ahead of taking on Manchester City Women live on Sky Sports on Saturday, kick-off 11.30am.
“It’s really interesting – when I sit at home and I turn on the TV, I can watch Chelsea vs Tottenham [in the WSL] or West Ham vs Eintracht Frankfurt [in the Europa League]. It’s just incredible that it’s so accessible now.
Saturday 30th April 11:00am
“I think that’s really helped, in terms of galvanising fans. The product is better than it’s ever been. All the media attention around it and with the Euros coming up. The appetite for women’s football is the best it’s ever been, the best I’ve ever known it in my lifetime.”
Similar to the Premier League, traditional top-tier hierarchy is a difficult mould to break. Since 2015, the WSL title has been won by the same three clubs. Incidentally, that same trio are the makeup of the current top four – Manchester United are the side who have made up the most ground in third.
When asked if Brighton can be one of the clubs to break free from the chasing pack in forthcoming seasons, Powell gave a considered response.
“I really believe – whether I’m here or not, and that’s not because I don’t want to be, but we know the nature of football – I think this club has real potential to be a top four club.
“It’s part of the strategy, it’s the owner’s belief. Potential plus hard work, we have the ability to get there. So, I think the future is really bright for Brighton – simply because all the foundations have been laid.”
But can anyone really disrupt the pattern of dominance across the course of an entire season? It’s Brighton’s plan to try.
“The ambition of the club is to be a top four club. I think that’s been well documented. This season I think we’ve done relatively well. We’re always striving to do better.
“The challenge we have is about consistency of performance. If we get that right, we get more and better players in, we’re heading in the right direction.”
Powell’s side will be putting that theory to the test against former WSL champions Man City on Saturday morning, though it will not be an easy ride. City have won their last six league outings without conceding a single goal.
Vintage Victoria Williams
- Ellen White will be up against one of the best defenders the WSL has ever seen in Brighton’s Williams. She is the only player to have 100+ blocks & 300+ interceptions in WSL history.
- She has made the most blocks & interceptions in WSL history. Further she is in the top-5 for clearances and top-10 for tackles won in WSL.
Interestingly, the Sky Blues have finished inside the top two in every season since their inaugural one in 2014 but will almost certainly miss out on that achievement this year. Does that signal a turning of the tide? Perhaps.
Brighton are improving on every metric year-on-year. They already have as many wins (8) and have scored as many goals as they managed in 2020/21; they’ve also conceded 11 fewer and are two points off last year’s tally with two games to go. Signs look positive.
“We finished sixth last season – it would be great if we could match or better it. The fact we’re in amongst the middle, is fairly good for us. It’s a case of trying to build on that.
“We slipped up on Sunday – the result against Birmingham, that’s credit to them. There are two games left, six points at stake, so we’ll do our level best to get something out of those games and see where we land.
“The expectation is that those top four teams are likely to beat those below them. That in itself can be pressure on the team expected to win. It takes a little bit of pressure off the underdog, if you like.
“That underdog mentality quite often shines through. Sometimes you do well as a result of that. We’ve proven that historically.”
Evergreen Ellen White
- White has scored or assisted in her last 4 starts (3 goals, 2 assists) in all competitions. Further back, she has only gone 1 game without a goal involvement in her last 7 starts (5 goals, 3 assists).
- The 32-year old had two goals in her first 14 apps this season (all comps), but has seven goals in her last 18 apps in all comps.
Resolute in their commitment to improvement, Brighton’s points-per-game average (0.8 to 1.75) is twice as many as 2018/19. Further, their win percentage has doubled. The WSL is no easy hunting ground, but under Powell – who celebrates her five-year anniversary in July – the Seagulls have a clear direction of flight.
Brighton’s remaining fixtures
April 30: Man City (a), kick-off 11.30am, live on Sky Sports
May 8: Everton (h), kick-off 12.00pm