All posts by Adam Stephens

Real Madrid all set to launch Women’s team for 2020/21 campaign

Real Madrid has finally ended its wait to launch a women’s team by buying out Madrid based club CD Tacon for 300,000 euros.

Los Blancos were one of the few remaining major European clubs not to have a women’s team but now have been encouraged to invest in the women’s game following in the footsteps of other leading teams such as Manchester United and Juventus.

The official name of the Spanish club is set to be Real Madrid Femenino, replacing that of CD Tacon and the merger will be confirmed once the men’s La Liga season ends on 19 July.

Following the confirmation of the takeover, President Florentino Perez said:

“Real Madrid must be part of this worldwide phenomena and the time has come to face this new challenge and build a football team which is able to compete and of which we can feel proud.”

Madrid’s impending arrival on the Women’s European stage arguably leaves German Bundesliga’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund as the biggest European club not to have a senior women’s team.

Unlike the men’s team, however, the women’s side in the short term at least will be playing catch up with fierce rivals FC Barcelona Femeni and Atletico Madrid Femenino, whose teams are already firmly established in the women’s game.

Players from other leading European clubs have stressed what ‘a huge positive’ the introduction of Real Madrid to the women’s game will be.

Lyon forward, Ada Hegerberg, who was the first winner of the Women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, said:

“I’m hoping they will stabilise the investment over a long period and that they have a long-term perspective because it can’t happen overnight.”

This view appears to be shared by the Real Madrid President, who, despite the obvious pressure of competing for instant success, has stressed that Los Blancos are planning to invest in young Spanish talent rather than recruiting from abroad.

Indeed, steps have already been put in place so that this is enforced, as there will also be Real teams between U16 and U19 level.

Perez added:

“CD Tacon was chosen because this club has an academy structure which allow us to remain loyal to our philosophy from day one.  As such, we will look to scout, train and develop young talent.”

These positive actions already taken by Los Blancos seem that to indicate they are intent on contributing to the sport’s continuing development and growth and with the top two Spanish Leagues set to go professional next season, the future of women’s football in Spain certainly appears to be heading in the right direction.

Liverpool Women claim ‘relegation from WSL was tough pill to swallow’

Liverpool’s men and women’s football teams could not be in more contrasting situations.  On one hand you have the men side, on the brink of their first Premier League title since Kenny Dalglish’s team clinched the championship in 1989/90.

While the men’s team are certainly on the way up, the same cannot be said of the women’s side, who learned yesterday that they will relegated from the Women Super League.

Liverpool Women’s club were bottom in the WSL having only managed six points before the FA had decided this week to call the season to a halt. They were one point behind Birmingham, who had a game in hand and three points behind Bristol City.

Having chosen to use the Points Per Game system, however, the two time WSL Champions ultimately ended up with an average of 0.43 points per game, just 0.11 fewer than Birmingham.

Following the FA’s decision Liverpool Women’s Manager Vicky Jepson said:

“For me as the Manager it’s important that I reach out to the Liverpool fans and we need them more than ever to stick by our players because I have spoken to our girls today and they were extremely heartbroken by the decision and shocked as well as I am.

“It’s something we can’t control but what we can control is how we react to this outcome.  We’ve got to react in the best way possible and that is how we prepare in our pre-season and how we perform on the pitch next season.”

Aston Villa, who were six points clear of Sheffield United at the top of the Championship were subsequently declared Champions and will replace the Reds in next season’s top flight division.

At the other end of the table meanwhile Chelsea were declared league champions ahead of Manchester City, despite the Blues sitting a point behind the Manchester club they crucially had a game in hand on their title rivals before the season ended prematurely.

On being announced champions Chelsea Women Manager Emma Hayes said:

“Of course we would have preferred to play the remaining games, but players’ welfare was always our priority, and finishing the season was ultimately not possible.  We have to respect the decision of the FA, clubs and people involved in the game who have decided this was the best and fairest outcome.

“I also want to congratulate Manchester City and Arsenal on wonderful seasons.  The title-race was shaping up to be one of the best this country has ever witnessed and we look forward to competing again when WSL resumes.

“To our fans, I’m sorry we can’t celebrate with you but we will hopefully see you soon at Kingsmeadow.”

The new campaign is currently set to begin in September, however, FA Director Kelly Simmons has already had to deal with wide spread frustration that the Barclays Women Super League did not follow the example of the Frauen Bundesliga restart and the NWSL in the USA. She explained:

“The season ending early gives us the time to plan to come back bigger and better for the 2020-21 season, and we are determined to ensure we don’t lose the momentum generated before the country went into lockdown.

“The Barclays FA Women’s Super League is the only fully professional women’s league in Europe, and we are incredibly proud of how far it has come on, but we have to remember that it has only been professional for two seasons.”

Following all the momentum that women’s football has built up in this country the past few years, the agonising prospect of not having the WSL and the Championship on our screens until September means that it will be the best part of six months before the sport returns to the public eye.  Unfortunately this may inevitability mean having to build up people’s interest in the game again. 

What is the state of play in Spanish La Liga?

Following the successful return of the German Bundesliga on May 16, the next of the leading European leagues to restart following the COVID-19 pandemic is the Spanish La Liga.  So how was it left when play was suspended on March 12?

Current situation

Well to start with Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid had just suffered a surprise defeat at Real Betis to hand the initiative back to reigning champions Barcelona.

The Catalan side currently hold a two-point lead over their fierce rivals, who remain in second.  The last time the league leaders played was on March 8, when they secured a hard fought 1-0 win over fourth place Real Sociedad thanks to a Lionel Messi 81stminute penalty.

Real Sociedad, however, bounced back just a few days later to secure a 2-1 win away at relegation threatened side Eibar moving them back up to fourth.

Atletico Madrid meanwhile, had wasted a 2-1 advantage at home against fellow Champions League hopefuls, Sevilla as they were ultimately held to a 2-2 draw.   The club from Seville currently sit third but are only two points ahead of Diego Simone’s side which is sixth.

The league’s surprise package so far this campaign has been Getafe, Jose Bordalas’s underdogs are fifth and have not only enjoyed league success but had also just knocked out last seasons Champions League semi-finalists, Ajax, to progress in the Europa League.

At the other end of the table, Barcelona’s local rivals, Espanyol, had suffered a 1-0 defeat against Osasuna leaving them six points from safety. Leganes and Mallorca are the other teams that currently make up the bottom three; however, Celta Vigo, Eibar and Real Valladolid remain very much in danger.

Next fixtures…

The league is set to resume on Thursday June 11 with the Seville derby between Sevilla FC and Real Betis. On Saturday June 13, league leaders, Barcelona are due to travel to face strugglers Mallorca, while Real Madrid will be looking to get their faltering title challenge back on track when they meet Eibar on Sunday June 14.

The plan is for the Spanish sides to complete their 11 remaining fixtures in just over a month, which would mean finishing on July 19.

La Liga chief Javier Tebas also spoke of plans to give a tribute to those who have died from the pandemic.  Fans will be encouraged to create audio recordings of themselves applauding the victims, which will be played in the 20thminute of each match.

Tebas said:

“Fans make football so special, and as they cannot be in the stadiums, we have created this initiative so they can play a part in the return of the competition and show their support for the heroes of COVID-19.”

How to watch?

La Liga fixtures will be available to watch free on Sky and Premier Player online for free throughout June.

Manchester City Women appoint Gareth Taylor as Head Coach

Manchester City’s Women’s side have announced Gareth Taylor as the new Head Coach of the Women Super League side.

Taylor is set to succeed Nick Cushing who moved to New York City FC to take up the role of Men’s Assistant Coach in February this year.

The 47- year-old has previously been coaching the citizens’ under-18 side for the past few seasons winning successive Premier League Under-18 cup titles. Taylor has reportedly signed a three-year deal with the club.

Alan Mahon, who took temporary charge of the WSL side, will aid the former Wales international striker as Assistant Coach.

The former City and Burnley striker, Taylor told the club official website:

“I’m absolutely relishing my new role within City Football Group and I’ll be giving everything I have to continue Manchester City’s success and growth in the women’s game.”

Following the appointment the Club’s head of women’s football, Gavin Makel said:

“I am looking forward to working with Gareth as we enter this new era for the women’s team in which I am confident that we can continue to build upon the successes that we have had over the last six year.”

Taylor’s role will start with immediate affect and he will certainly have the pleasure of working with some talented players. Before the 2019/20 campaign was brought to a conclusion earlier this week the team were top of the league by a point from nearest rivals, Chelsea.

Star names such as England Captain Steph Houghton, Keira Walsh and Caroline Weir have also committed their long-term futures to the club by signing new deals.

Indeed, it certainly bodes well for City to be following the pattern that has worked for them previously, as Cushing himself was an Academy Coach before taking charge of the women’s side for six successful years.

Taylor, however, will have to wait to go into action with his new team as the Football Association have ended the WSL season earlier this week, while the FA have also yet to make a decision on what will happen to the FA Women’s Cup where City made it to the quarter-finals before football was suspended.

Brentford crowned EFL Football Manager Cup Winners

Brentford supporter Sam Jacques successfully managed the Championship side to FM2020 EFL Cup glory this past weekend.

The Bees overcame Welsh side Swansea City in the final of the competition in a nerve racking penalty shoot out after the match finished 1-1 after 120 minutes of action.

The final was ultimately decided by David Raya’s penalty saving heroics after saving spot kicks from Andre Ayew and Conor Gallagher meaning that the shootout finished 5-4.

In truth, Jacques’s team should have won before it reached the penalty stage having created more than enough chances to win the contest in normal and extra time but were kept at bay by the Swansea’s impressive keeper, Freddie Woodman.

It was however the Welsh side, managed by supporter Gareth Roberts, who took the lead through Conor Gallagher who latched onto a long ball from Matt Grimes.

The lead lasted a mere 79 seconds as Emiliano Marcondes headed in Mathias Jensen’s free kick to make it 1-1 before half time.

The second half saw a number of missed chances from the Bees, Marcondes and striker Ollie Watkins both wasted good chances.  In extra-time Marcondes also saw a goal disallowed for offside.

Ultimately, these missed opportunities did not come back to haunt Brentford as they were able to keep their nerve from 12 yards to bring to an end a compelling virtual tournament organised by EFL and partnered by Mind UK.

Overall 54 teams took part in the tournament, which lasted over four weeks.  The JustGiving page set up has so far managed to raise £7,929 for the Mental Health Charity and there is still time to donate to this very worthwhile cause.