After the short winter break, the FA Women’s Super League returns this weekend.
The breather seemed timely after three fixtures were cancelled on the final round of fixtures in 2021.
Hopefully the period off would give allowance for protocols to help minimise the outbreak and spread amongst clubs as much as possible.
But, as has been seen across several of the fixture lists, games continue to be postponed as a result of the Omicron variant’s spread and the WSL is no different.
As the game continues to grow in public and professional stature the testing results have started to be publicised and the FA confirmed that in the first week of the New Year there had been 44 positive cases, after a further 40 the previous week.
The numbers were arguably expected, as the virus continues to take hold of almost everywhere currently, and positive cases are inevitable. Those players who were able to would also have enjoyed time at home over the festive period and the return of club training was likely going to be impacted.
#BarclaysFAWSL football is back this weekend 🙌
Who will you be backing on the first matchday of 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣2️⃣? pic.twitter.com/QGvXdakleq
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) January 7, 2022
Some games have already been called off with Chelsea against Spurs and West Ham versus Manchester United postponed before Aston Villa and Everton announced they would be unable to fulfil their fixture against one another due to a number of positive results as well.
The London derby was a game that many were looking forward to, as Tottenham had the opportunity to go second with a win over their rivals.
Spurs have had an exceptional season up to now under head coach Rehanne Skinner, who has set up her side to be well-organised and they have been one of the most consistent performers up to this stage.
For Chelsea, this is the second game in a row they will miss, after their game against West Ham before the break was also off.
The cancellation of fixtures will likely lead to another period of clogged fixtures for Chelsea through the season, although this time they won’t also need to add in Champions League nights after their exit in the group stages last month.
We can confirm that Saturday’s @BarclaysFAWSL fixture with Everton has been postponed due to an increased amount of positive Covid-19 test results within the visitors’ squad.
A revised date for the fixture will be confirmed in due course.
— Aston Villa Women (@AVWFCOfficial) January 6, 2022
All surviving fixtures will now take place on Sunday. Arsenal will be one of only six teams in action as they look to extend their lead at the top of the WSL to seven points with a trip to bottom side Birmingham City.
The upcoming games would have marked the halfway point in the season.
Arsenal have built up a four-point gap but things remain in the balance and whilst many expect it to be a two-horse race between the Gunners and Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United are certainly close on their heels.
Northern Ireland can reap benefits
The Women’s Euros are being held in England this summer with Northern Ireland preparing for their first major tournament in the country’s history.
Kenny Shiels’ side qualified almost 12 months ago by defeating Ukraine in the play-offs to reach the finals that were postponed to this summer after the men’s tournament was pushed back to summer 2021.
With the success of the Northern Ireland national team, it is expected that the domestic game will reap many benefits, as has been visibly experienced in Scotland since 2017 when we achieved something similar.
It came as no surprise that this week it was announced that Glentoran captain Jessica Foy had signed the first professional contract within the Women’s Premiership in Northern Ireland.
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) January 7, 2022
Having led her side to successive league titles, along with the treble last season, the PE teacher has earned herself the reward to become one of Northern Ireland’s first full-time professional players in her home country.
It was followed by the news on Friday that the Northern Ireland squad had kicked off a seven-month training camp this week. All of the players in the squad who don’t play in Scotland or England will become full-time players in the run-up to the Euros, which is a great move.
In summer, they will face England, Norway and Austria, all of whom are experienced at major tournaments.
Hosts England are tipped as one of the tournament favourites while Norway have won the trophy on two occasions.
Austria made their debut in the competition in 2017 in the Netherlands but surprised many by making it to the semi-finals.
It is a very difficult group for Northern Ireland but they will hopefully reap the benefits of qualifying for the tournament.
Last-minute deal saves Coventry United
Since the news broke last week that Championship side Coventry United were to enter liquidation there was been a great public effort to save the club, with pleas for an investor to be found.
A support page raised over £12,500 for the players and staff affected.
Thankfully, a last-minute deal was agreed to rescue the club, spearheaded by West Midlands businessman and chief executive of Angels Group Lewis Taylor.
The club has appealed the 10-point deduction it received from the FA for entering voluntary liquidation but it is pleasing the clubs future looks to have been secured.