FA WSL 2 club-by-club season preview: Oxford United
U’s captain and midfielder Lauren Haynes looks ahead to the upcoming 2017-18 season
Revolution is in the air at Oxford United as they go into the FA Women’s Super League 2 season with new signings, new coaching staff and a new stadium.
The U’s finished bottom of the FA WSL 2 Spring Series but manager Andy Cook joined halfway through that campaign, and can now enjoy a full season with a summer transfer window under his belt.
Midfielder and captain Lauren Haynes talks us through how the U’s are shaping up ahead of the new season.
2016-17 in a nutshell
After a disappointing Spring Series the club have had a stable summer, and with pieces seemingly falling into place the U’s could be real underdogs this season.
Haynes’ side were not a million miles off the pace, drawing against Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa, and going down by just one goal to Everton, Durham, Sheffield and Watford – but for the odd goal here and there their campaign could have looked very different.
“I think we found the Spring Series very frustrating to be honest,” said Haynes. “I think we weren’t very prepped ourselves.
“From our perspective, we were the most frustrated of all because, of the games we played, we played ok but we should’ve done a lot better than we did.”
Oxford United have a new place to call home after agreeing to play at the completely refurbished Court Place Farm for the next three seasons, with a brand new 3G pitch to boot.
With the players looking forward to the move, it could be key in turning around the club’s fortunes.
“We have a new home now,” Haynes added. “A new stadium at Oxford City Football Club in the centre of city, it will be nice to play in the middle of Oxford.
“You’ll also probably look at the squad now and see nine changes from the Spring Series and the season before.
“What we are looking to do going forward is massive really and, like I said, the recruitment strategies been great.”
Ins and Outs
Manager Cook has really put his stamp on the squad over the summer and, working with a host of new signings, the U’s could well surprise a few this season.
24-year-old Hannah Short arrives having played a key role in Yeovil’s 2016 FA WSL 2 winning campaign, with midfield maestro Steph Williams also joining from the Somerset club.
“We signed Hannah Short who can play centre-back and centre-forward,” Haynes added. “She can be the best player on the pitch in both of those positions on any day.
“You’ve got Steph Williams who has joined us in the centre of midfield, you’ve got Dan Carlton also joining us and some of these players played at Yeovil when they won the WSL 2 campaign.
“We’ve also signed Emily Allen who we feel was overlooked in the Premier League last year, and she has certainly stood out the most in our pre-season campaign.”
Chris Cone was appointed the U’s new assistant head coach for the upcoming season, having previously been strength and conditioning coach at the club.
He joins Cook’s new-look backroom team and it’s also young midfielder Haynes’ first full season as captain, having joined from Aston Villa at the beginning of 2016.
“It will be good as Andy [Cook] came halfway through the Spring Series so he did not do any of the preparation for it,” said Haynes.
“So far it’s all going in the right direction so, as long as it continues how it’s going, I think we’ll be really good contenders for the next season.
“It’s a huge honour for me to be captain and I’m so proud to carry this team now, especially with the fact that we have gelled so well together, it’s been a really nice atmosphere.”
Bright young thing
Youngster Ellie Noble played a key role in the U’s Spring Series and has signed her first senior contract for the upcoming season.
Noble has been with the club for eight years and having been selected for an England Under-18s training camp over the summer, will be looking to make a big impact in the league.
“Definitely Ellie Noble!” Haynes said. “She’s only 17 years old but in midfield she has loads of potential, one of the best players that can come in and around the team, and we are so lucky to have her at the moment.
“She’s so dedicated and key to the club that she is definitely the one to look out for this year.
“She plays central midfield and she is a technical, ball-playing midfielder.”
Haynes added: “I feel we are going to be the underdogs – we haven’t won many games against the other teams so I think we have a lot to prove this year.”
To buy tickets to an FA Women’s Super League match near you, click here: http://www.ticketstores.co.uk/fawsl/