This summer’s Women’s World Cup was a spectacle, and an incredibly important showcase for women’s football. In fact, the tournament in France, won by the USA, sparked a huge interest in women’s soccer across the globe, including in England! More people turned out to see USA, England, the Netherlands, and more play at the highest levels of competition, and then wondered where they play their club football.
That’s fortuitous news for Tottenham Hotspur Women, who promoted to the top flight Women’s Super League this past May by finishing second in the FA Women’s Championship. In fact it comes at just about the perfect time — more people are interested in the sport, and more Spurs fans are now turning their attention to include what the women are doing as well. Spurs were able to take their promotion and the favorable climate for women’s football and use it to their advantage — they rebranded (from Tottenham Hotspur Ladies), went fully professional (from semi-pro), and became a fully-fledged part of Tottenham Hotspur (from their associate club status). All that takes investment. They got it.
But as exciting as it is to have Tottenham playing in the WSL this season — and it’s hugely exciting! — Spurs will likely face the same sort of struggles that most promoted sides do when they move up a division. And truth be told, the task ahead of Spurs this season is extremely difficult. There’s a huge gulf between the WSL and the FAWC, and an even bigger gap between the top teams in the league and the rest of the league.
Up top are the big three — Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City. That’s where the majority of the talent in England play. Lionesses starting keeper Karen Bardsley? Manchester City. So’s Ellen White, Kiera Walsh, and England captain Steph Houghton. Millie Bright and Fran Kirby? Chelsea. Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, and Danielle Carter all play for Arsenal.
Below them are... well, everyone else. And that’s where things will get interesting. Because while Spurs are likely going to get pounded by the top of the table — they lost 6-0 at Arsenal in a preseason “friendly” (their best ever result against the Gooners!) and open the season vs. Chelsea at Stamford Bridge — they will hope to get points from the likes of West Ham, Reading, Birmingham, and Notts County.
There are very few teams that can waltz into the league and become immediate contenders (though Manchester United are likely one of them), so it will be incremental, baby steps that will keep Spurs up and keep them improving. They’ll do it all with the careful match planning of co-head coaches Karen Hills and Juan Amoros.
Names to watch
This article is being written with the assumption that many Spurs fans are not that familiar with Tottenham Hotspur Women. And that’s okay — neither, really, am I! It’s been near impossible to watch them play in the United States up until now, and only this season, with the creation of The FA Player streaming platform that anyone not at the stadiums can actually see Spurs play. As part of transitioning to a full-time club, Spurs made a lot of changes this summer, bringing in several new players, not all of whom may be familiar.
So I’m learning right along with you! However, here are a few players you’ll want to keep an eye on right from the get-go, with other players rising to your attention as the season progresses.
Rianna Dean (#9)
Dean was the star of Spurs’ FAWC promotion campaign. A product of Arsenal’s academy, she signed with Spurs from Millwall and went on to become Spurs’ leading scorer last year, notching 14 goals from 19 appearances in all competitions. She was one of the best players in the league, but she’ll face an entirely different class of defender than what she found in the second division.
Jenna Schillaci (#11)
Schillaci is a central defender and Tottenham’s club captain, and she is an 11-year veteran with the club, meaning she’s been around for all four of Spurs’ promotions since assuming the name. At 35, she doesn’t have many more campaigns left, but she’s the heart and soul of Spurs’ defensive line and will provide invaluable experience.
Becky Spencer (#1)
One of the new players signed this summer, Spencer is an experienced WSL keeper who played for both Chelsea and West Ham. She starts the season as Spurs’ established #1.
Anna Filbey (#6), Megan Wynne (#12), Josie Green (#4)
Spurs don’t have any English internationals in their roster, but they do have a trio of Welsh international midfielders. Filbey, Wynne and Green were recently called up for UEFA Women’s Championship qualifiers. All three started on the bench for Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against Northern Ireland, but Wynne was a late substitute.
Rosella Ayane (#23)
Another new signing and Chelsea product, 23-year old striker Ayane joins Spurs from WSL side Bristol City, and also had a stint with Cypriot league side Apollon Limassol, where she scored 19 goals in 19 appearances in 2017-18.
Siri Worm (#15)
Dutch native and Worm is an experienced central defender joining Spurs from Everton this summer. She is a full Netherlands international with 35 caps, though she narrowly missed the squad for the World Cup runners up last summer.
Kit Graham (#16)
Graham was a trialist brought along to Spain for the preseason Ramon Carranza trophy. She scored in her first match against Real Betis. Spurs signed her almost immediately afterwards. A forward, Graham scored 16 goals in the FAWC with Charlton last season, but was signed under somewhat controversial circumstances, none of which were her fault. She will add to a talented Spurs attack.
Ashleigh Neville (#29)
A swashbuckling fullback who has ability on both sides of the pitch, Neville was one of my favorite players to watch in the limited number of matches I saw. Neville scored four goals from the left back position and was an important defensive piece in Spurs’ promotion campaign last season. A lot of the players who helped Spurs get here were not retained after the club went fully pro this summer. Neville was, and for good reason.
Jessica Naz (#17)
A special mention to 18-year old Naz — she’s part of the next generation at Spurs and has the look of a future England international about her. She scored four league goals in 17 starts for Spurs, but she’ll have to wait for that call-up. She was injured during Spurs’ preseason friendly tournament in Spain and will miss most of the season after undergoing ACL surgery.
Key Upcoming Matches
@ Chelsea Women, September 8
That’s tomorrow! Spurs open the season with a toughie — vs. WSL third place finishers (and Champions League runners up) Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
@ West Ham, September 29
Tottenham played (and beat) the Hammers in preseason, but this is the league, and they’ll be doing it at the London Stadium instead of West Ham’s usual home digs. Another great opportunity for Spurs to play in front of a huge crowd.
vs. Manchester United, October 13
Manchester United, in their first-ever year of existence, were born as a fully professional side and were a thorn in Spurs’ all through last season. Spurs finished second behind United last year, and will be itching to play them again with their revamped side.
vs. Arsenal, November 17
David vs. Goliath, or whatever the female equivalent is — whatever, it’s a big match. And they’ll get to play the first ever league North London Derby at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It’ll still be a big ask — Arsenal are exceptionally good — but there will at least be guaranteed a raucous pro-Spurs crowd in attendance.