Making up the numbers? Watford Ladies look forward to the new look Super League
They stand on the verge of the English football's topflight, with only Leicester City and either Crystal Palace or Brighton standing in their way, but it’s not just the men of Watford Football Club who have been eyeballing at promotion throughout this season.
Watford Ladies had been waiting patiently to find out if their application to the expanded Women’s Super League (WSL) would be accepted, and finally, on April 26th, they were delighted to be told that they would be going to Women’s Football’s top flight…….sort of.
The newly restructured WSL will consist of two tiers, the WSL 1 and WSL 2, but Watford Ladies, at least, will be happy to know that their future as a club looks more secure thanks to it joining the bottom half of the Ladies’ elite league.
“I’m so happy we’re going into the Super League next year,” said Watford Ladies’ midfielder Kate Natkiel.
“I look up to people like Kelly Smith [England international and Arsenal Ladies star] so I’m looking forward to playing her. It’ll be a challenge and I’ll be pretty nervous once we get there but I think that half of our team will be as good as their side anyway.”
“We’ll give them all a real good go.”
There’s confidence in the youngster and a sense of ambition in her voice, and why shouldn’t there be. This time last year Natkiel and her Watford Ladies teammates were fighting an uphill battle against relegation in the final weeks of Premier League season. But an undefeated streak in their final four games of the year, including three wins, kept Watford from slipping into Southern League Division obscurity and gave a squad of determined players belief in themselves.
“Because we were on the verge of getting relegated last year and we managed to stay up we basically just believed that we could do it [push for a title this year],” began the 20-year-old.
“We believe that we are really good players. We’ve got a massive coaching staff and everyone believes in themselves and I don’t think other teams have got that, because we were down so low last year and we stayed up and achieved the impossible.”
Watford now stand just two points away from a Premier League title in what will be their final season in the league, but they most hope that second place Sunderland, with three games in hand, don’t find a win or three draws in their remaining fixtures. Watford, though, still have last year’s belief and are still confident the improbable dream is attainable.
“We were never expected to get this far,” continued Natkiel.
“Everyone is just on a massive buzz, and we’ve got a hash tag on twitter, #WTL. That stands for Win The League because we all believe we can do it.
“It would be brilliant to win our last women’s Premier League season.”
The expansion of the Super League has met little disapproval from players and fans of the game and Kate is no different to many of her fellow players within the sport. With only eight teams in the division until the 2014 season, and no promotion and relegation possibilities, skeptics of the women’s game have argued that the original WSL has provided little improvement in it’s quality or the fan base growth of the sport, despite the increased television coverage during World Cups, the Olympics and the a dedicated show on UK satellite and cable television. The 2014 season, though, will bring something new, a competitive edge to avoid relegation.
“It’s a great step forward,” said the midfielder when discussing the Super League’s expansion.
“Having only eight teams in the first Super League it was a bit like, ‘oh, there’s no promotion or relegation, no way for other teams to join’, but it’s a big step forward now. “
“It’ll definitely be treated more seriously.”
Title or no title this season, Watford ladies will be starting from the bottom in the new look WSL, something many may feel is a little harsh when Manchester City Ladies have been selected to join the WSL 1, despite sitting 17 points behind Watford in the current Premiership table.
The Hornet’s are confident, however, that the only way is up and Natkiel and co have just one goal for next season.
“We’re looking to get promoted next year,” was the determined answer given when asked about their goals for the 2014 season.
“I think the levels are the same, there’s not much difference between the Super League and the Premiership. We played against Liverpool ladies this season and we beat them so I don’t think there’s much difference in that respect.
“Some of the Premiership sides that have come up from the top end will give the Super League teams a good run for their money so I don’t think there will be much of a difference.”
There’s a clear message in the words of the former Arsenal Ladies Academy player. WSL watch out. Just because the league’s expanded, these sides aren’t coming up to just make up the numbers.