Reading FC Women boss Kelly Chambers has been talking about the trials and tribulations of an unprecedented 2020 and her hopes and plans for the New Year, which start with a visit from Chelsea on Sunday.
With the covid-19 pandemic still playing a huge part in shaping how people across the globe are living their day-to-day lives, a new calendar year unfortunately does not mean an instant return to normality.
May of last year saw the 2019-20 FA Women’s Super League campaign ended prematurely due to the pandemic, resulting in Reading finishing in 5th place, just two points behind Manchester United in 4th.
The current 2020-21 season kicked off back in September, with all matches being held behind closed doors until December, when Reading proudly welcomed fans back to the Madejski Stadium. Supporters returned to watch the Royals take on Bristol City on the 6th and Manchester United on the 13th before a change in the Government’s tier system meant games were to be played behind closed doors once again for the foreseeable future.
“Of course it has been difficult,” said Chambers. “It’s been very uncertain, but we have had to adapt just like everyone else. The injuries that we have had haven’t helped. We’ve been in quite a unique position where we have a number of players that haven’t had a lot of game-time, some of them for over a year. Players like Dan Carter, Lauren Bruton and Jess Fishlock have come off long, very serious injuries, so the whole stop-start elements haven’t been ideal.”
Chambers’ side have had an inconsistent start to the season, despite performing consistently on the field throughout. Three wins, three losses and four draws sees the Royals sitting in 6th place in the league, just a point behind Everton. Standout performances have come in the form of a 1-1- draw against last season’s runners-up Manchester City, as well as impressive 3-1 victories against Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion in the league and a 4-0 triumph against Charlton Athletic in the Conti-Cup. Even in draws to Tottenham, Everton and Bristol City, Chambers’ side had the better chances, dominated play throughout and deserved to walk away with more than the shared points.
“We’ve been unlucky in a lot of games so far this season,” Chambers continued. “We have been creating the chances, but something was missing in front of goal. A lot of the losses and draws are tough to look back on, especially if you look at where we would be in the table if we’d had got the extra points that we deserved, but that’s football. We do feel like towards the end of last year though, something clicked and we were able to be a bit more clinical in front of goal.”
January’s fixtures see a tough start to the new year for Reading, as reigning champions Chelsea visit RG2 this coming Sunday, before the Royals entertain Arsenal the following weekend. However, Chambers feels confident in her side ahead of the clashes. “We’ve performed against Chelsea and Arsenal in the past and I don’t see why we can’t do it again. We pose a lot of different threats to the top sides and always have. Last season we beat Chelsea on penalties and only just lost out to Arsenal the month after by a very late winner from them.
“I have huge confidence in this group of players. Their development as a team from the start of the season has been incredible. I truly believe we now play some of the best football in the league but it’s important that we turn that into results more consistently and I believe that is coming in 2021.”
“It’s going to be a big year,” summarised Chambers. “Not just for women’s football in general as it continues to go from strength-to-strength, but for us as a club. We have been in-and-around the top four or five every season and we need to give it one big push to get to that next level. We know we can compete with the bigger teams on the field, we’ve shown that time and again, and I truly believe in the girls that they have what it takes to get the results against those sides.”
Reading FC Women are next in action this coming Sunday when they welcome Chelsea to Madejski Stadium in the FA Women’s Super League for a 2pm kick-off, and all the action is live on the FA Player.