Karen and Juan’s 2019/20 WSL season review
Sat 06 June 2020, 11:30|Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs Women head coaches Karen Hills and Juan Amoros expressed how proud they are of the squad’s achievements in our maiden campaign in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League (WSL) as we reviewed some highlights of the 2019/20 season.
Yesterday, the FA announced their decision to conclude the 2019/20 WSL season on a point-per-game basis, and for Spurs Women, that resulted in a seventh place finish as we ended the season registering six wins, two draws and seven defeats from 15 matches.
The 2019/20 campaign also saw us reach the quarter-finals of the Women’s FA Cup for the first time in our history. Drawn away to Arsenal in the last eight of the Cup, the scheduled fixture in March was postponed due to COVID-19 with the resolution of the competition still under review by the FA Women’s Board.
“We were having an incredible first season in the WSL up until the postponements and I think we surprised a lot of people with how well we took to the top flight,” Karen commented. “Our position in the table and reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals is something we can be extremely proud of. The squad and the staff have worked tirelessly this season. Naturally, it was disappointing to not be able to finish the season but at the same time, we completely understand the reasons why the league couldn’t resume. I think overall we’re just really proud of everything the team have achieved in our WSL debut.”
After gaining promotion from the FA Women’s Championship last year, Karen and Juan had a restless summer forming a new look Spurs Women squad ahead of an exciting new era in the top tier of women’s football as 12 members of our existing team were joined by 10 new faces.
“I think the girls that arrived in the summer have been fantastic and bought into what we want to achieve here,” Juan said. “Every time we sign a player, Karen and I make sure we meet them personally and explain our vision and plans for the season ahead. The players who we retained were already familiar with our values, our way of working and what we stand for, and that is massively important when there is so much change going on around you.”
Karen added: “We worked extremely hard with the squad both on and off the pitch and that was massive. They have each other’s backs, they support one another and have made new friendships. Putting the squad together was a big project but we’re pleased overall, and they produced some brilliant performances this season that showed the togetherness within the group.”
Before our historic 2019/20 campaign even began, the squad embarked on our first overseas pre-season tour in Cadiz, Spain where we competed in the Ramon de Carranza Trophy.
After winning our inaugural game in Cadiz with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Real Betiz, a penalty shoot-out defeat followed in the final against Athletic Club (Bilbao) as we finished runners-up in the tournament which served as excellent preparation for the season ahead.
Our WSL opener against the newly-crowned league champions Chelsea ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat in front of almost 25,000 fans at Stamford Bridge.
“In Spain, we experienced playing in a big stadium, winning a game over there and just missing out on winning the whole tournament but I think that gave our players a lot of confidence,” Juan said. “We take pre-season very seriously and we always want to be competitive in every game. Before playing Chelsea, we beat West Ham in pre-season and that was another confidence boost for us heading into our WSL debut. Yes, we lost the game against Chelsea, but I think our performance that day made everyone realise that we can compete, and it created belief and I think that was key.”
Despite an opening day loss, we kept our heads up and a week later, on our home debut at The Hive, we secured our first victory in the WSL with a 1-0 win over Liverpool.
Come the end of September, we were playing at another Premier League venue, this time against West Ham at the London Stadium where superb goals from Rianna Dean and Lucy Quinn sealed a famous win in front of another bumper crowd of nearly 25,000 fans.
“Our wins against Liverpool and West Ham just showed the character of the team,” Karen said. “At the London Stadium, it was another big stage, with another amazing atmosphere but the way we approached those big games, it was like there was no fear or nerves. Our players knew what to expect after playing at Stamford Bridge. I thought they handled the big occasion really well and let the football do the talking. We were excellent and we showed what we’re about. To celebrate with the fans in the away end was amazing too and something that I think will live with our players for many years.”
The first-ever north London derby against Arsenal in the WSL came around in November and was hosted at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – a record-breaking 38,262 fans turned out to watch the historic fixture as we set a new all-time attendance record for the WSL. Despite a valiant performance from our players on the day, we were left to rue missed chances as Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners.
“I think everyone wrote us off from the start against Arsenal, but when it came to the game, we still believed,” Juan said. “If you look at the chances that we had in the first half, if we put one of them away, it could have been a different story. Everyone had their eyes on that game, and it got a lot of attention. I think we showed that we are here for the long haul. What a day it was for the Club to achieve that incredible attendance record. It’s no secret that five or six years ago, we were playing in front of 20 or 30 people and suddenly we were performing in front of over 38,000 fans. The day was simply unforgettable.”
Karen added: “What an occasion it was for women’s football, I was so pleased that we got to play in such an incredible stadium in front of all of our amazing fans. We are a great side and our players showed that they deserve to be competing against top teams in this league. The result was disappointing, but we held our own and were very proud of our players – I think the performance showed that we’re getting closer to where we want to be.”
League doubles over West Ham and Brighton, a win away to Bristol City and a draw against Everton, the teams surrounding us in the WSL table, without a doubt proved to be fundamental in maintaining a comfortable position in the league.
“The results against the teams around us were really important and we needed to get those points on the board,” Karen said. “The planning and preparations around those games proved to be spot on and we saw some individual brilliance too. Those victories gave us confidence boosts and we knew we were good enough to beat those teams on our day.”
Juan added: “We haven’t lost to many teams around us and I think that’s been massive this season. We drew against Birmingham away, but we won both games against West Ham and Brighton. Being able to compete with those teams and actually win the games has been huge for us and key to finishing in the position that we have.”
Yet to pick up points against any of the teams at the top of the table, Karen and Juan believe the team are getting closer and closer to achieving this.
“We’ve seen an important progression this season, yes we haven’t been able to win any games against the teams at the top, but we’ve come extremely close,” Juan continued. “Sometimes games are decided by key moments such as Beth England’s goal at Stamford Bridge and we had our chances in that game and against Arsenal. We are closing the gap and I am confident that we will continue to do so next season.”