FA WSL 2 club-by-club season preview: Watford Ladies
Captain and defender Anneka Nuttall looks ahead to the upcoming Golden Girls FA WSL 2 campaign.
The waiting is nearly over and the FA Women’s Super League 2 returns in less than two weeks’ time, with Watford beginning their campaign away at Millwall on September 24.
The Lady Hornets have had an industrious summer and are looking forward to their first full season under the tutelage of highly-experienced head coach Keith Boanas.
We caught up with skipper Anneka Nuttall to get an insight into the club’s pre-season preparations.
2016-17 in a nutshell
The Golden Girls finished bottom of the FA WSL 2 season in 2016 but improved on that in the FA WSL 2 Spring Series, with an eighth-place finish, registering two wins from nine.
Boanas took the reins at the club in February, at the start of the Spring Series, and the competition helped him incorporate a number of new signings into the squad.
Looking back on the Spring Series and the summer, Nuttall made clear the work that’s gone in ahead of the new season.
“The summer’s been good, very, very positive,” said the Watford captain. “A lot of things have changed within the summer for us as a club.
“We actually had a pre, pre-season, so we had three weeks off and then we were back at it straight away.
“The Spring Series was all about finding our feet as a new team, it really was, we had a lot of players who’d never, ever played, and we’re still gelling now, we’re still getting used to each other.”
Watford’s best finish in the FA WSL 2 was a seventh-placed ranking in the inaugural 2014 season.
But the Lady Hornets have had a long pre-season that’s included a 2-0 victory over Chichester City, and a 2-1 win over Leicester City.
“I’m very, very excited about it [the new season], we’ve got lots of new players and more backing from the club, we’ve got a great manager to go alongside that,” added Nuttall.
“Our target is to finish top three. I strongly believe we will finish in the top three this season.
“We’ve had a lot of pre-season friendlies, against some very good opponents, and we performed brilliantly against them, so it sets us in good stead for the season ahead.
“We know where we want to go and we will reach where we want to go. I would throw us up there in the top three but it’s a tough league to judge this year.”
Ins and Outs
One player sure to make an impact in the league this season is Rinsola Babajide.
The speedy winger represented England over the summer in the Under-19 Euros, and although she joined the Hornets for the Spring Series, has now had a full pre-season under her belt, and Nuttall is tipping her to shine.
“Fans will probably know about her but I will mention Rinsola, she’s just come back from the Euros with England,” Nuttall added.
“She’s a very good player and definitely one to watch this year.
“Helen Ward is a massive signing for us too, and I’m looking forward to playing with her.”
Boanas is one of the most experienced managers in women’s football and enjoyed a successful spell with Charlton Ladies, leading them to three successive FA Women’s Cup Finals, lifting the trophy in 2005.
He went on to coach at Millwall Lionesses and Estonia women, and has been a big attraction for new players to join the Watford squad.
“Keith has been a massive influence on everything really, especially with the recruitment of new players that we’ve brought in,” said Nuttall.
“We also have a very good general manager alongside Keith in Ed [Henderson]. Both of them working in partnership is a dream come true for the club.”
Bright young thing
Although young, Lilli Maple has already earned 50 appearances for Millwall Lionesses, and also scored four goals in eight games for Crystal Palace before joining Watford.
“We have a few younger players,” said Nuttall. “We’ve got Lilli Maple in the middle who’s a good player, very versatile and one to watch out for.”
Nuttall added: “We’re not that bottom club anymore. I think we’ve proved through pre-season and in the Spring Series we’re a team to watch out for this year.”
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