Reading FC Women manager Kelly Chambers on Tash Harding, a rampant Manchester City and the transfer market

Reading FC Women's manager Kelly Chambers celebrates their win over Birmingham City Women at full time. Photo: Neil Graham
Reading FC Women's manager Kelly Chambers celebrates their win over Birmingham City Women at full time. Photo: Neil Graham

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Football in Berkshire’s Women’s Football Correspondent, Abi Ticehurst, spoke to Reading manager Kelly Chambers this week during a pre-match press conference ahead of the Royals final game of the season against Manchester City in the FA Women’s Super League. Here’s everything she had to say.

Departure of Tash Harding

It was announced this week that captain, Natasha Harding, is set to leave the club after 4 and a half years as a Royal, “It was one of those that in terms of pushing forward and in terms of freshness and of where Tash was and where we were. It was a case of that decision was made and then she can start looking at what her next steps are”.

Related: Reading FC Women announces the departure of captain Tash Harding

Manchester City, Gareth Taylor and Champions League

Chambers expects City to be rampant on Sunday given their recent form, beating Brighton 7-2 and Birmingham 6-0, the visitors are in contention for Champions League spot but Reading know there is a job at hand and they’ll use City’s busy schedule to their advantage “Our game will be their third game in a week. We know what we’re going to be facing and for us we’ll be taking our approach into the game, in terms of tactically to try and frustrate them and try and be defensively really, really strong and that’s the stuff we’ve been working on this week”.

With Reading safe from relegation and unable to fight for a Champions League spot, the pressure is on Gareth Taylor as a manager, “For Gareth, he’s done exceptionally well and been exceptionally patient. He knows what the team can achieve, he trusted the process and trusted the players that they’d be able to turn it around and we’ve been able to see the fruitions of that now. You watch them and they’re unstoppable at the minute. They have world class players in their set up and for us on Sunday, we’ll need to make that game as difficult as possible and that for us is making sure that we’re defensively strong”.

The FA Women’s Super League transfer window

Chambers kept her cards close to her chest about any signings but said they were looking at bringing in a couple of players, as she mentioned in the pre-match conference for West Ham, ” I’m really excited about is having a big core of the group moving to a second season together. It’s something that I haven’t had over the last couple of windows, I’ve had a turnaround of 8-10 players in the last two windows. We’ve started something now, laid foundations, this season was always going to be one of these. The players are getting to know each other, I’m learning about the new players”.

Amalie Eikeland of Reading Women Photo: Neil Graham
Amalie Eikeland of Reading Women Photo: Neil Graham

Eikeland’s season

Eikeland picked up both the awards on offer at Reading’s Gala night celebrating 150 years of the club’s existence and Chambers explained her decision was an easy one because ‘First and foremost the energy that she gives us, I think there’s been one or two games where she hasn’t played in midfield and she’s been a big miss there. Her energy, her willingness to get back and support the defense to prevent goals, but also her energy to get higher up the pitch. She’s been one of the first names on the team sheet across the season and been an integral part of the team”.

Related: Clean sweep for Amalie Eikeland at Reading FC’s Gala night

 “In terms of the league, we’ve definitely seen a rise in the quality and standard of football being played, that’s then leading to more people coming to watch it, the see the figure numbers for Sky & BBC, you see the flip side in terms of England games now. This league was put in place to create a winning women’s England team and I think that they’re in a very good place to step into the Euros this year”.

Kelly Chambers on the development of the FA Women’s Super League

Season expectations

Reading fans will no doubt agree with Chambers sentiments in regard to the Royals position in the table this season, “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season, in terms of where we are, maybe one or two places higher if I look at the season as a whole I’d have liked to have finished. When we look at stats we’re fourth with clean sheets in the league, so why aren’t we winning games?”, but she was clear in her expectations for next season, stating “We had that really good period, so we’ve had consistency this season and that’s what we need to iron out for next season. More consistent with our performances, more consistent with playing styles and more consistent in terms of results”.

Furthermore, “A lot of players if they are in the Euros they want to try and get stuff done before they step into that zone because they want to come out of that knowing where they’re going. It’s important for me that we’re trying to get that part of the game plan done”.

Investment and the professionalism of the FA WSL

There has been a real development in recent years as we see teams training and playing in the same grounds as their male counterparts, “I’d like to think everybody will be heading that way, it’s a case of looking at those clubs and they probably have double the player budget that some of who are in and around the table do right now. So, that gap is quite big but in terms of everything else, I think it’s great that the women are training at the men’s ground, clubs starting to try and play at their men’s grounds. Investment in being able to grow things off the pitch which allows you to then grow on the pitch”.

Physicality, tactics and professionalism have all levelled up for Chambers since the league went full time, ““I think this is the most physical this league has been and knowing that teams are going to be able to maintain from the first minute to the last. There’s a lot more tactical elements this season for me, in terms of being able to look at ‘can we change? do we need to change?”.

She noted that growth was key for youth players also, “Some of our players haven’t been professional for that long, there’s still a learning element within that side of things. ‘What does a professional environment look like, especially for our younger players”.

The relegation of Birmingham

Birmingham are one of the found members of the FA Women’s Super League, way back in 2011, “It’s hard to see, like you said they’ve been in it from the start, they’ve always been a team that have competed in this league and competed against the best.”

Chambers also commented that we’re seeing a turn in the women’s game and that is evident in the investment in the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, ‘They’re just pulling away from the other clubs and even if I look at ourselves, we’re now going to be the only team with a men’s Championship side in the league. But, when you’ve got Brighton, Leicester, Aston Villa, West Ham, those kind of mid-table teams, it’s about how do we get there. The investment in the women’s game from the top clubs is far superior to what the other clubs around them are getting.”

Whilst the season has been competitive for both managers and players, it’s evident that a change is happening for Chambers, “We thought the gap was getting smaller and don’t get me wrong, the league’s been very competitive this season and I think there’s not been a game where any manager would step into and go ‘this will be a three points in terms of planning ahead’ but I think we’re starting to see that divide again in terms of the top 3 and everybody else”.

Match details

Reading will face Manchester City in the final game of the season on Sunday 8th of May in their FA Women’s Super League fixture at the Select Car Leasing Stadium. Kick off is at 12pm with tickets available to purchase til 10am on the day here and if you can’t make the game, you can watch it live on the FA Player.

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