Birmingham City are ready to break up the party at the top of WSL 1. After two cup finals in the last 18 months, a new manager and new signings, the club aren’t far off doing just that. Despite a disappointing seventh place finish in the Spring Series, the squad are ready to hit the ground running in their opener against Arsenal this weekend.
One of the new signings in 2017, Emma Follis, is clear about the squad’s ambition to work towards a common goal of breaking open the top three of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. In the offseason since the Spring Series, Marc Skinner’s side have been working hard to get in shape for the full-length league season.
“I don’t think we performed as well as we wanted to in the Spring Series, so this has been a good opportunity for us to regroup and rebuild. It’s nice to look at different ways of playing, different formations and our performances in the Spring Series and trying to improve them,” she said.
“Going in to the first game, things are starting to come together and gel, and I think people are looking forward to it – we just want to get going with it now and start the season off.”
Kick-off at Boreham Wood this weekend will see the start of the Skinner era at Birmingham following the departure of long-term manager David Parker last season. After their visit to Wembley in May, consistency under the new system is key for the Blues to unlock the elite of the top league places.
“Marc’s ambition and our ambition has always been to compete with the best, so I think getting in to cup finals shows that we can progress and win against the top teams – we just need to make it more consistent throughout the season.”
“The long-term goal will be to break in to the top three and of course we’ll all be together and put in all the hard work to make sure that that happens. We can compete with everybody in this league and we’ll always just concentrate on the next game.”
With a new manager comes a new ethos and Skinner’s has been one that has cemented the bonds within an already close-knit side. With the squad message of “all together”, Follis makes it evident that Birmingham are a cohesive unit prepared to tackle the new season head-on.
“Marc is very team-minded and he wants us all to work for each other. Everybody’s putting in the effort to cover everybody’s back and all work together and I think that’s the best way for us to be successful.”
“The squad is starting to take shape, we’ve got a good balanced team and there’s lots of healthy competition that’s only going to push us forward and make us better.”
Along with Follis, other new Blues arrivals this year include England strikers Ellen White and Rachel Williams from the now folded Notts County. The club also confirmed this week the signing of Bristol City captain, Hayley Ladd. However, it’s two of Birmingham’s defensive unit, Jess Carter and goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger that Follis tips to have a standout year.
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“Ann-Katrin Berger our goalkeeper is just another level – she is the best goalkeeper I’ve ever played with so we always feel really safe and know that she’s got our backs. Jess Carter is a game changer for us – she’s really solid in defence, but can also burst forward.”
“I didn’t play at all in the Spring Series because I was injured so it’s great to be back involved. I’d love to get back on the score sheet and assist the likes of Ellen [White], Charlie [Wellings] and Freda [Ayisi].”
With the team ready to work together to achieve success, it’s evident Birmingham are prepared to lead the charge in the league again.
“It’ll be quite a long season now compared to the Spring Series, so we just need to make sure we build and develop as we go and be hard to beat and I think we should be all right.