Aston Villa are a football club on the rise in the Women’s Super League. The villains are fifth in the topflight and are applying pressure to be the best team outside the league’s top four. Whilst Europe has proved to be a step too far for Carla Ward’s team, progression has been at the heart of this season. Supporters will indubitably be anticipating the future.
Villa was promoted from the Barclay’s Championship in the 2019-20 season as champions where they went the season unbeaten – some landmark. Since promotion, Villa executives have overseen league finish improvements each season. Tenth place in their first season in the WSL was followed by one position higher the season after. Last season, twenty-one points were registered on the board. To compare the radical improvements, Villa is this season fifteen points better off – with matches still to play.
The roots to the rise stem from the manager. Carla Ward has been in charge since 2021 and she has played a momentous role in Aston Villa’s development. Ward has a track record of steering clubs away from the relegation zone. She has done this with two clubs, whom both are arch-rivals. Her current club, Villa, and Birmingham City, where she kept the club in the topflight and being nominated for Manager of the Year in the process.
The ex-midfielder started her managerial career with Sheffield United, a club she played a season with. As manager, she led the Blades to a fifth and second place finish in the Championship. Improving teams is a core skill of Wards’. These experiences are proving pivotal and fundamental to Villa’s successes.
A 0-5 thrashing of relegation threatened Reading (who The Woodwork covered previously and highlighted the importance of this match for Reading), showed exactly why Villa are a side that clubs should fear. The victory demonstrated Villa’s ambition to the challenge the big four next season as Reading’s home form this season is what has put points on the board for the Royals. Villa swept them aside with ease.
Key player and forward Rachel Daly was central to the win. Her hattrick took her WSL goal tally to 20 goals in as many matches. Leading the Villains front-line, 96% of her goals have come from inside the box. Potent finishing. Possessing a player of that quality is what defenders have nightmares about – Daly is playing her part in Villa’s successes. And it’s not just goals the English forward adds. Five league assists provide depth to her play and manifests her role in the team.
As the 2022-23 season draws to a close and a fifth-place finish cemented, Aston Villa will go into next season with an ambition to improve further and apply pressure onto the big four. Who knows, this time a year later, we may be talking about European football coming to Birmingham.