Fara Williams Predicts Most Open WSL Season in Years

03 September 2020 09:00

Fara Williams might be the oldest member of Reading's squad, entering her 21st season of top level women's football, but England's most capped player of all time is a long way from done yet.

Looking relaxed on a video call with 90min ahead of the WSL's restart on Saturday, live on BT Sport, the former Players' Player of the Year insisted she's raring to go and contribute to a Reading squad with some significant summer additions.

The Royals kick off their campaign away at Arsenal at Sunday lunchtime, with the 36-year-old midfielder excited by manager Kelly Chambers' summer recruiting. "Kelly wanted to go with players who had WSL experience this season," she explained. "It's quite hard for players to adapt, coming into the league for the first time.

"Knowing that we only had a short pre-season, five or six weeks, to get a foreign player who might take longer to settle would have been difficult. She's been smart in her signings, we've got some players with great experience in the WSL and internationally. It's strengthened us, and we've got a really nice group."

Part of that 'nice group' is Danielle Carter, long-time Arsenal favourite who has scarcely featured for the last two years after back-to-back ACL ruptures. Carter signed for Reading this summer, and Williams said of her new teammate's progress: "She's been recovering with me, and she's been looking really sharp.

"Dan's a fantastic finisher, she's got that in her locker and her sharpness is there or thereabouts now. She's had a couple of games, and once she's back to full sharpness we'll see the best of her. She's going to improve as a player at Reading with the coaches we have – I've spoken to her about that and she's really excited to get better and hopefully catch the eye of the England national coach."

Dan Carter was at Arsenal for more than a decade before her move this summer | Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Headlines have been made over the summer by Man City and Chelsea's big moves in the transfer market, bringing over some US internationals and Pernille Harder respectively, and Williams admitted: "I'm excited to see how these players come over and settle, how they respond to the competition within the top teams, it's going to be difficult for the teams to manage top players who aren't playing.

"Everton have heavily strengthened, they've got Valérie Gauvin, that's a fantastic signing for them. West Ham have strengthened, we've strengthened with some experienced WSL players. There'll be points taken off the top teams this season by the teams around them, which hasn't always happened before. Man Utd, if they get the two players who have been mentioned [Tobin Heath and Christen Press] that'll strengthen them even more. They're exciting players, who as a fan and a player you love to watch."

Pushed for an ultimate answer, she conceded: "If Emma Hayes can keep her squad happy, I think Chelsea will win the league. Saying that, Arsenal aren't in the Champions League this year and the last time they won it was when they didn't have that focus. I'm going to say Chelsea, closely followed by Arsenal."

The pre-season – described by Williams as the 'shortest of my career' – has been difficult for a number of clubs after a gap of almost six months since they last played competitive football, but a couple of players have shone for Reading in that time.

Angharad James has been tipped to make a big jump in her second season at Reading | Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Wales international Angharad James was described as 'looking like a new signing' ahead of her second campaign with the club, while a couple of youngsters came in for praise too.

"Emma Harris has had a really good pre-season," Williams said. "She's had more minutes to showcase herself and she's only 18. Sophie Quirk, she's a young international player as well, they've both come through our RTC [regional talent club] and settled comfortably in the team really well – they'll be exciting given the opportunity to play."

Another Wales international, Jess Fishlock, brings vast experience to the squad with countless league titles in multiple countries, and two Champions League winner's medals from spells with Frankfurt and Lyon. Williams added: "It's nice to play with Jess, I feel like I play differently with her there. We're on the same level, thinking the same things on the same page."

This season, BT Sport is showing more Barclays FA Women’s Super League matches than ever before. The season kicks off with Aston Villa vs Manchester City on Saturday 5 September live on BT Sport 2 and available for free on btsport.com, BT Sport App, YouTube and Facebook from 2pm.

For more from Chris Deeley, follow him on Twitter at @ThatChris1209!

Source: 90min