Women’s Player of the Season Aileen Whelan explained that anyone in the squad would have been a worthy winner of the award, after claiming the prize at Sunday night’s ceremony.
Whelan was chosen by Hope Powell and her coaching staff, but the forward stressed that everyone in the squad deserves huge credit for making the step up to the top flight of women’s football.
She said, “I wasn’t expecting this at all, the whole team put in a big shift this year and it’s been a difficult season. The award could’ve gone to any of us.
“It’s a big step up from the league we were playing in last year, in terms of the quality we’re playing against, and it’s a lot faster too.
“It’s more physical and a number of the teams in the league have been established for many years. You can see the differences between us all, so we’ve all had to step up and improve a lot during our first season in full-time football.”
The forward also reflected on Sunday’s 4-0 defeat to Arsenal in the FA Women’s Super League, and says the aim to compete with the likes of the Gunners in the next five years is a realistic prospect.
“We probably just gave them a bit too much respect in the first half, but with the atmosphere in the stadium, we didn’t want to show up and not perform.
“Coming out after Hope’s team talk for the second half, we felt we were already losing, so we wanted to put a show on for the fans that made the trip to showcase what we can do.
“Five years is probably feasible because we’ve got all the facilities now and it’s about building a team and establishing players, in terms of adapting to the higher level of quality.
"We’ll be aiming to use the youngsters in the development squad and build them up into first-team players."