Q&A with David Parker Birmingham City Ladies manager about the FA WSL upcoming season

Following my short interviews with Kirsty Linnett and Coral Haines,  here is a Q&A with David Parker, the Birmingham City Ladies manager. The are some very interesting points on the money/foreign players/training time debate. In terms of final table prediction, I expect Birmingham City ladies to achieve mid-table places comfortably.

1.This season seem to be a new era for the WSL  with 5 teams training 4-5 times a week ( Notts County, Arsenal, Man City main players, Liverpool). Do you think the teams that train less often including yours still have a chance to compete against those? 

To be honest I think this aura of full time training is a myth. Its not about just training sessions for the sake of training (sometimes with just a few players in rather than the whole squad) it has to be about the whole package of the day to day contact so every area of the players development in managed by the club, rather than them just turning up to training 1 additional day over ourselves. Personally I think only 1 club has got this right so far and does put them at an advantage.

2. What are the teams’ target for the season 2014 ?

We will always have internal targets at the club that we will keep to ourselves. We know how good our group is where we should be at come the end of the season. For the bookies and general public to label us as relegation favorites definitely adds a little spice for us now to prove them wrong. But overall its all about improving on each campaign which we have done in the last 3 seasons.

3. Liverpool has shown the way last season with more training sessions and importing a good number of foreign players to achieve short term success. It seems that this is the trending model now with many teams importing foreign players. 

There are two sides to this argument. Only the top international players should be targeted to come over and improve our game, I don’t have a problem with this, like the Japanese girls for example. However there have been many cases already of average foreigners coming over and adding nothing to the league then disappearing, this is not positive for our game. They are taking up valuable financial resources and also playing time for our younger generation. Foreign players will always demand a higher financial package then there domestic counterparts. This is taking FA money directly out of the hands of the players they are trying to benefit, our own! I am not comfortable with this what so ever. For example take a player ‘X’ they have played for many years in the old Premier League season on season paying our of their own pocket to fund their passion, then the FAWSL comes along and they earn a little bit of money. Now the league explodes they get a slight increase in wages for playing, still balancing their part time job. A foreigner arrives and becomes a full time pro straight away on 2,3,4,5 times (and the rest!) of their salary. Where is the justice? As a player how would you feel? Especially in a game where financial resources are still tight that one/two/three player(s) are earning astronomical wages compared to the rest of the squad. Its not good for the dressing room.

a) Do you think the new homegrown rule for the FA WSL season is a positive thing. 

It doesn’t go far enough…2 Non-EU players maximum (playing at any one time) plus 50% of the squad to be ‘homegrown’. Really?? anyone can get around these rules… People forget about duel nationality’s etc.

b) Do you think some teams have decided to sacrifice english players development in favour of short term results?

Absolutely! But its not just about that. How about instead of paying a foreigner ridiculous amounts of money, share it around the English girls so they can all have a bit of the pie and all of them can go full time. That was the point of the league in the first place.

4. Considering some teams have probably 3 or 4 times your team’s budget, does the move to the Autotech Stadium opens new business/sponsorship  opportunities to find new income streams to be able to compete in the future  with teams well supported by their men’s side. 

3-4 times our budget!!?? And the rest Sylvain!! Its quite shocking if I could disclose the real figures. We have always been at the bottom of the money table, people didn’t think that when we started but i can tell you we were! We have been constantly over achieving for 3 seasons, people really do seem to forget that. We do have a good business model though that is secure for the future. We need to be realistic and because we are Birmingham City we are not going to be able to complete with a Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, £ for £ because of the men’s side huge resources. But what we can do and always will do is go about things slightly differently. The people we have at this football club is second to none with out a doubt, and this draws every last bit of quality we need to compete. Put it this way we haven’t got to the Champions League q/final without having a little something about us even though we don’t have the money every else does. We have been the 2nd most successful side in the FAWSL era on one of the lowest budgets that says it all really. 

5. Do you use prozone and opta stats with BCLFC ? 

Yes Prozone, it covers far more depth of analysis for the professional market. For example OPTA code around 1800 ball touches a game whereas Prozone covers 2500 plus. I’m pretty familiar with the Prozone gear too…wonder why? ha

Note : David Parker is an account manager at Prozone

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Birmingham City Ladies kit launch, part 2, quick interviews with Kirsty Linnett and Coral Haines

First interview was Kirsty Linnett, she came through the ranks at Leicester City, then moved to the Arsenal Academy where she unfortunately suffered two consecutive ACL that kept her out of football for more than 2 years. She then moved to BCLFC in December 2012 and had an excellent FA WSL 2013 season. She was a member of the U17 WC squad that reached the semi-final of the tournament in 2008.

I asked  her about her personal targets for this season 2014 :

Having a good and full season, progress with the team and  being involved hopefully in the international set-up (Kirsty is flying soon  with the U23 for the La Manga tournament ). Champions League is also a massive target with the quarter finals against Arsenal next month.

And in term of goals and assists ? : yes definitely trying to score more goals, feeling a bit  more confortable playing as a 9 as well.

So you think you will play up front and maybe not on the wing, there are 3 center forwards in the squad this season, loads of competition for places ? It is the manager’s decision obviously, we have good wingers like Karen Carney  and Melissa Lawley.

I then interviewed Coral Haines, for those who don’t know BCLFC number 23, she plays in attacking midfield/center forward position, came through the center of excellence and will be 18 in June. She is involved with England U19 managed by Mo Marley

First question again : what are your personal targets for the season ?

I was a squad member last year, so playing more this season. Being a young player, it is difficult to break into the team that we have already , I will defintely try break through  to the starting 11 more often.

In term of the England youth set-up ?

Obviously keep getting called up. My dream is to play at the Euros ( to be played in Norway in June, England have to go throught the Elite round in April). I am going to La Manga in March, it is the start and hopefully I will be chosen for the Euros.

Do you think about the World Cup ? ( The U20 world cup will be played in August in Canada, it is open to the players born in 94 and after)

Hopefully I will get picked for the camp after La Manga, get picked for the Euros, impress there and maybe being picked up for the world cup.

Birmingham City Ladies kit launch (part 1)

I went to St Andrews today for the BCLFC kit 2014 launch.
It took place next to the boardroom and the players modelling the kit were Karen Carney ( home), Kirsty Linnett ( away). and Mary Earps ( goalkeeper)

The kit provider has changed and the company doing the first team reserves and Center of Excellence is Sodinco. They have signed for 2 seasons. We were also advised that Hollywood Monster renew their partnership with BCLFC for the 4th year running. It is good to see that kind of loyalty towards a team like BCLFC.

The move to the Autotech stadium at Solihull was mentioned as a chance to do more in term of business and corporate / commercial opportunities.

Then came the kit unveiling with Karen Carney with the blue home kit, Kirsty Linnett with the white away kit and Mary Earps with the orange and very visible goalkeeper kit.

Players were interviewed on stage and here is a quick resume from Karen’s answers. Birmingham are realistics and they are not spending as much money as Chelsea, Arsenal or City. My own estimation from what I read everywhere is some teams probably have up to 2,3 or 4 times BCLFC budget. Obviously not official data is made available by the FA, so we can only guess but budget of 500,000 and 750,000 have been mentioned for some teams playing in red.

Regarding being realistic, Karen also say that throwing money at players might not been sustainable, saying that some budgets in France are from 3 to 5 millions euros, if I remember well what was written in France Football/l’equipe. She also menttioned that winning the Champions League was the big target as she had already won it with Arsenal. Back in 2006/07 when it was called UEFA women’s cup. Her other target was to stay fit and healthy, we all remember what happened at the Cyprus Cup last year when a canadian heavy tackle damaged her foot and she was out of the teamn for a long period prior to the euros.

Karen also mentioned that the team was seeing quality young players like Mary and Kirtsy coming through and team’s future was definitely bright. She said blues would go about their business quietly  and do their best in the League.

Blues replica shirts will be available in adult sizes costing £29.99 and juniors £24.99 from this Wednesday (26 February).

http://birminghamcityladies.sondicoprofessional.com/buy-here-11/birmingham-city-ladies-fc-sondico-colorado-shirt-adult

Arsenal Reserves v Reading Reserves 6-0

This was the first official game for the reserves in 2014 due to the awful weather. The Reading was very much changed from the one that played the away game earlier this season. They have the name and squad numbers on the shirt and only two players had squad numbers below 20.

Reading had 3 players that started the season playing for Arsenal reserves in midfield : Leigh Nicol, Zoe Cunningham and Rebecca Danbridge. Arsenal welcomed the new goalkeeper Chelsea Coles from Watford following Sophie Harris’ move to London Bees.

The rest of the team was Leighanne Robe, Vyan Sampson, Jade Bailey, Meg Ryan, Leah Williamson, Bianca Bragg, Freda Ayisi, Caroline Weir and Carla Humphrey. Taome Oliver Adekite Fatuga and ? came on in the second half.

The 6 goals were scored by Weir, Humphrey, Ayisi, Bragg, Williamson and Oliver.

Overall the girls played well with some good attacking football and movement but the game lacked intensity to be testing enough. It needed at least 10 to 20% more. I am not sure Reading had a shot on target for example.

So after this good result the road the FA WSL Development League Cup semi-final is wide open for the Arsenal Ladies reserves team.

More data fun about the foreign players in the FA WSL

Carrying on the hot topic about foreign players in the FA WSL, I have split the foreign players in 3 different categories :

A) Neighbours : Irish, Northen Irish, Scottish and Welsh, those have been around playing women’s footie in England for years.

So not a real foreign invasion as far as I am concern. Some of those are actually English but play for a different country…

B) EU/EEA players, not many of them were around before the FA WSL started.

C) Non EU/EEA again they were a few around but not many before the FA WSL started

 

2011 A  30 B 2 C 3= 35

2012  A 35  B 2 C 7  =44    Y/Y    16% increase for A, stable for B, 133% increase for C

2013  A 35 B 8 C 6  =49    Y/Y    stable for A, 400% increase for B,  15% decrease for C

2014 A 22 B 9 C 11  = 42   Y/Y  37% decrease for A, 12% increase for B, 83% increase for C

 

From year 1 to year 4

Group A has gone down to 26% less neighbours are coming to the FA WSL 1 ( although there are 19 of them in FA WSL 2 )

Group B has gone up 450%

Group C has gone up 366%

It does make sense for the FA to have implemented the 50% of the squad must be homegrown rule in 2014. Homegrown being registered for 36 months prior to the 21st Birthday.

Reading v Chelsea friendly

It was a quality pre-season friendly played last Tuesday between WSL 2 side Reading  and WSL 1 side Chelsea.

The game was played in 3×30 with the last 30 minutes with Chelsea reserves team on the pitch, and Reading progressively putting their younger players on the pitch as well. So Reading won the 60 minutes game 4-3 and the last 30 1-0.

A match with great intensity and pace, Chelsea playing 4 of their new signings with Flaherty and Chapman not playing but Wilhelmson, So-Yun, Bassett and Williams all starting and impressing. Reading matched Chelsea in term of physical impact and pace for most of the game but started to look slightly tired towards the end of the 60 minutes. Goals were scored by Aluko, Spence and Williams for Chelsea while Ward claimed a double for Reading, Kirby got one, Roche got one and the last goal was scored by someone I don’t remember.

Chelsea used a kind of asymetrical 4-4-2 system while Reading used the usual 4-3-3. With the quality on display, I would not be surprised are near the top of their respective divisions at the end of the season.

C&K Basildon v West Ham (FA Cup 2nd round)

It was a very entertaining game last Sunday with West Ham winning the game 4-3 on penalties. Full time whistle was 3-3. As usual you can find a full report on womenssoccerscene.co.uk and James Prickett pictures as well.

We were welcome by a friendly staff from C&K Basildon who gave us an A4 program that was top quality. The game was played on a 3G at Harlow town, last time I went there it was still grass when Arsenal beat West Ham in the county cup 8 years ago I think.

The game was really good, it ebbed and flowed with both teams creating chances. The main charateristic of the game was teams were unable to hold the lead for a long time. Every time a team took the lead the opposition took less than 10 minutes to respond, in a case even less than a minute.

Overall a very good game played in a freezing cold afternoon.

Foreign players in the FA WSL through the years

It is a subject that is regularly discussed in the men’s game and the foreign invasion started to happen in the women’s game as well….or not.  One FA employee mentioned in the Belles appeal stated that:

“The pre-screening team has worked on the assumption that a maximum of 20 FA WSL licences can be offered: 8-10 for FA WSL1 and 10 for FA WSL2. NB. If 10 FA WSL1 licences are offered, this may impact on quality and competitiveness of FA WSL1 and dilute the quality of FA WSL2 and reserves. It may also result in an influx of more Welsh, Scottish, Irish and other EU and non-EU players. There is a real concern that there is insufficient talent to field 10 competitive FA WSL1 squads at this time.”

Let’s see with  the data I have collected throught the 3 FA WSL seasons. Note that some foreign  players were registered by the FA WSL teams, but never set foot on the pitch in the whole season due to injury, not securing a work permit or just not being good enough (?).

The number of players registered in the FA WSL was 167 (2011), 169 (2012) and 192 (2013) . Note that the number might be incorrect as team don’t always disclose players that have been registered until you find on the teamsheet on matchday and the reports on the FA WSL are sometimes incomplete or incorrect unfortunately.

I am not 100% sure but I think the increase in the overall players’ number is due to the squad size was allowed to go up in 2013 ( from 20 to 23 plus loans) .

The number of foreign players was 35 in 2011 that’s 20.96%, 44 in 2012  that’s 26.03% and 49 in 2013 that is 25.52%.

As of today the current numbers of foreigners registered for 2014 is 39 down 10 from 2013 should the 8 teams have 23 players registered it would reach 21.19%

It was in constant increase 40% from 2011 to 2013 and grew overall faster than the total number of players  which increased by 15% in 3 seasons.

Let’s have a look at the numbers by nationality through the 4 years, current year is in progress in decreasing order :

1. Wales 14,17,18,13 = 62

A big contingent as well for obvious reasons, Bristol having big share of those.

2. Ireland 8,11, 5, 2 =26

Quite a big contingent of foreign players come from Ireland as expected, quality players as well who have been established in the English league for a while.

3. Scotland  7,4,6,4  = 21

Another neighbouring country with a good number of imports.

4. Spain 0,3,4,3 =10

A few quality imports have graced the FA WSL especially at Bristol

4. New Zealand 2.3,2,3 =10

A small but regular contingent

6. Northern Ireland  1,0,3,3 =7

Another small contingent from the neighbouring country

7. Australia  0,4,0,1 =5

A very small number of players have come to the FA WSL, the work permit rule change that affected a player like Laura Alleway in 2012 probably did not help.

8. Canada 1,2,0,1  =4

4 players in the Canadian contingent, one of them did not make an appearance in 2012 as far as I know.

8. Germany 0,0,2,2 =4

2 players arrived at Liverpool this season and have been a big success and should be there again in 2014.

8. Iceland 0,0,3,1 =4

3 players arrived last season, 2 left halfway through the season, the last one should be around this year.

8. Sweden 1,0,2,1 =4

One of top six FIFA ranking country with a small number of imports.

8. USA  0,0,2,2 =4

All US imports coming to Liverpool

13. Netherlands 1,0,0,1 =2

Anouk Hoogendjik was there in 2011 and is back in 2014

13. Japan 0,0, 1,1  =2

Yuki Ogimi a World Cup winner has been around for the last 2 seasons.

15. Brazil 0,0,1, 0 =1

1 player Esther, she did not even complete the whole season at Chelsea

15. Korea 0,0,0,1  =1

Ji So-Yun just arrived in 2014

If we look at the last  FIFA ranking

From the top 5 overall USA, GER, JAP, BRA, FRA  11 players overall No French player

From 6 to 10 SWE, CAN, NOR, AUS, DPR 13 players  No Norwegian or North Korean player either

From top 11 to 20 ENG ITA DEN NED SPA NZL KOR CHI ISL SCO 68 players No Italian, Danish or Chinese player.

Below top 20 95 players

If we look at EU/Non Eu players

EU and assimilated : 136 ( unrestricted as per the European Union rules)

Non EU : 27

What all those statistics mean is the foreign invasion in the FA WSL  has not happened. Around 75% of eligible English players in the League means a lot of choice for Mark Sampson and his staff. And the cheap foreign import wave you see in men’s football is not happening. This could only happen if the wages in the FA WSL start catching up with the professional teams on the continent.

PS:  My current count in FA WSL 2 is 12 but most of the squad are not disclosed.

4 games in a week-end

It is quite funny because I expected to attend 2 games and ended up watching 3 games and half as the last one was cut short for viewing reasons. But I’ll come back to that one later.

First games was the U17 National Cup between Arsenal and Liverpool. That game was a bit bizzare. There was a strong win towards one goal, so the team with the wind helping them spent the half dominating the other team. Arsenal won the first half 1-0 and Liverpool the seconf half 2-1 and it ended up with a penalty shootout won 4-3 by Liverpool.

The Arsenal girls were close to win it but the final and finish were not the greatest at time as well as a bit of luck could have helped when on the last play the Liverpool goalkeeper made contact with one of the Arsenal forwards leg and took her out but as the ball was already past both players I guess the referee gave a goal kick instead. If you cannot capitalise of your chances, sometimes the opposition will come back.

Then as an unexpected bonus, the first team appeared and played a friendly against Oxford United. I had a good look at new signings Christie Murray and Siobhan Chamberlain. Casey Stoney as there but didn’t play.
Arsenal won 8-1 which is about the same as in the previous games I have seen between those 2 teams. The girls played in a 3-1-3-3 or 3-4-3 with diamond system and started with Byrne, Scott Bailey Mitchell, Weir, Nobbs Murray Smith, Ayisi Carter Yankey. Chamberlain and Robe came on at half time and a couple subs during the second half with Sampson and Williamson in. Overall there were some excellente one or two touches attacking sequences. Christie Murray is well integrated into the attacking system already.if you add Hoogendjik and Stoney the starting 11 is looking as good as anyone but the bench might rely a lot on youngsters if the new signings don’t materialise. I still expect a couple more.

Sunday afternoon was FA Cup day with the 2nd round game between Enfield and Chichester 2 combinations teams. As usual you can have a look at womenssoccerscene for a full game report and James Prickett for the pictures. It ended 6-0 for Chichester and could have been 10 as Kelly Cooper had a superb game in goal more than 5 one v one situations. Enfield started the game pressurising Chichester but without real chances created. Then after 20 minutes they got caught sleeping defensively on the right wing, twice. Half time 2-0.
Then early in the 2nd half a twisting cross bounced awkwardly on the sandy area of the pitch and deceived Cooper who let the ball slip in for a tap in for the Chichester forward and there was no way back for Enfield. 3 down they threw everything into attack and got punished 3 times on the break. Final score 6-0.

And my final game of the day was at the Hive between London Bees development and Arsenal Ladies development. Played in the evening on the 3G in a sort of usual cage where you don’t see properly at ground level. So I set up to watch from the hill alongside the pitch where you had a clear view and two other people were also watching to be told around the 30th minutes that it was a no-no and I could watch from halfway down the hill. I tried to watch from there, but that metal fence was not helping and therefore I left and went home. The score was 1-0 Arsenal when I left thanks to a marvellous piece of skill from Caroline Weir in her penalty are to beat 2 players and start a run that ended with a Freda Ayisi goal. The ressie starting 11 was :

New goalie Chelsea, Bartrip Robe Sampson Gaylor, Bailey Williamson, Bragg Ayisi Weir Oliver a flexible 4-2-4 used.

So 4 games (nearly) over the week-end and I managed to see the U17, reserves and first team. Not bad at all. Plus a good Fa Cup tie.