A season of progress

Albion skipper Victoria Williams reflects on a successful fourth season in the WSL.

By Luke Nicoli • 06 June 2022

By Kyle Hemsley
Victoria Williams says Albion have moved forward this season.

In a nutshell, Victoria, do you think we’ve made good strides this season?

Yes, definitely. There’s not been a dramatic change in our core playing squad this season, so to be in a position going where a win in our final game would have seen us reach our highest-ever WSL points tally, in a league that’s getting stronger every year, is something we can take plenty of encouragement from.

You mention the league getting stronger. It’s certainly more competitive from top to bottom, right?

I don’t think any team takes any other team for granted, regardless of their position. If we go back to our penultimate home game against Birmingham [lost 1-3], we were massively disappointed to lose, but they have also beaten Arsenal, who challenged Chelsea for the title. All teams had something to play for, right up until these final games of the season, and that is a reflection of how competitive the league is.

As a defender, have you noticed a step-up in quality in the forwards?

Every forward in every team is capable of punishing your errors – and even the youngsters coming through are of a really high quality now. As a defender, you’ve got to think about the game more; you’ve got to think about your position, where your marker is, their strengths, their weaknesses and how you can negate those. Against the top sides in particular, it can be mentally as well as physically exhausting; you can’t let your guard down for one phase of play because if you do, you’re usually punished for it.

There’s clearly a gap with the top sides at the moment but longer term, can we become a top-four club, as we’ve set out to achieve?

We’re doing it the right way. Some of the top clubs can buy big every season, but for us it’s all about developing a culture first. People forget that we’ve only been in the WSL for four seasons, as a professional club, and things aren’t going to happen overnight. There is a strategy in place, and the new training facility is a big step forward in that, so we have to be patient. We have shown we can compete with the top sides, whether that’s for a full 90 minutes or half a game, but longer term we need to be competing with them every time without the peaks and troughs.

What were the highpoints of the season for you?

The 4-1 win against Reading was a standout game, given the poor run we had been on. Everything clicked for us on the day and we put in a stellar performance. It set us up nicely as we beat Aston Villa and West Ham soon after – and were back to our old selves again. The 0-0 draw against Chelsea was also enjoyable, given they went on to win the league, and the 5-0 win at Birmingham is also up there as we had five different scorers on the day. I think teams have allowed us to have more of the ball than in previous years, and that’s credit to the team that we’re being shown that respect. The challenge now is to take those games to the other team and be ruthless in the same way that Manchester City were against us this season.

You’ve played regularly alongside young Player of the Season Maya Le Tissier this season. How pleased have you been with her progression?

She is a great example to the young players at the club at what is possible if you put in the work and listen. She leaves no stone unturned in her preparation and is now getting her rewards for it. We sometimes forget she has just turned 20 and to have that kind of player in the team, with that much potential, is great for the club. Maya has played almost 60 senior appearances already, which is incredible really. I have no doubt she will go on to achieve senior international honours.

Finally, what’s your message to the fans?

It’s been brilliant to have them back ever since the Covid restrictions eased. We’ve been averaging over 1,000 fans at Crawley and that’s even through the sticky patch we had. As a team, we’ve really felt their presence and I’d like to say a massive thank-you to each and every one of them. We hope you can see the progress we made and it would be nice to see even more of you next season.