I am delighted to see my former club Seattle Reign rebrand and go back to their roots with their original name and badge.
Earlier this week, the NWSL club, who have operated as OL Reign as part of the OL Groupe since 2020, confirmed the transformation ahead of the 2024 season starting in March.
I signed for Seattle Reign in 2015 and have so many fond memories of my time at the club.
I have an emotional connection with the club and the city, so when I saw they were returning to the name and crest from when I was there, it definitely brought a smile to my face.
There will be so many people, from former players like me to long-time fans, who feel a much deeper affiliation with the original name and badge.
When I joined Seattle I had only been a professional footballer for the one season I had spent in England with Notts County.
Moving to the United States was a completely new challenge for me on and off the pitch, but I absolutely loved it.
I lived with a host family which was a bit of a safety net for me. At the time, I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted when I was 25 years old, but it is, without a doubt, one of the best things that could have happened. I still speak to them and they helped make the city feel like a home.
Big news from @OLReign!
The club is going back to its roots and rebranding as Seattle Reign FC for the upcoming 2024 NWSL season 👑 pic.twitter.com/qjDCW1L8bk
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) January 10, 2024
The city was like nothing I had ever experienced before and it has been good to see Reign playing in the heart of the community at Lumen Field for the last two seasons.
We finished at the top of the NWSL in my first season and won the shield. I just remember having so much fun playing football with my team-mates.
There were so many superstars on the team, with the likes of USA icons Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe, but we had a good mix of people from different backgrounds and experiences.
Our captain at the time was Keelin Winters and she was such a good person, who really helped me settle in. All I had known was football at home and it was a lot to take in.
NWSL a different kind of league
Reign’s journey is a reflection of how the NWSL is a different league to what people would be used this side of the Atlantic.
The OL Groupe have had a majority stake with the club since 2020, but I don’t think it has worked out quite how they hoped.
There are much stricter financial rules and regulations in the NWSL, compared to the French league with their club Lyon, to make sure things are fair for all teams.
It’s why the NWSL is so competitive. There are not one or two big-hitters who runaway with the Championship title, as any team can go and beat anyone.
The teams experience evolutions – with some coming and going completely, much like the league itself with the NWSL being the third attempt of a women’s league in America – and there is nothing that quite compares to it.
I didn’t really understand American sport before I went there, but you do start to learn about the different ways they operate.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned, such as their approach to commercialisation. I think they have a more open-minded approach to setting targets and are willing to do everything they can to get there, rather than worrying about falling short.
The league has gone from strength to strength with the addition of new teams and it’s great to see the founding clubs, like Seattle, continue building on their foundations.
Aston Villa aim to go on FA Cup run
Aston Villa start our FA Cup campaign in the fourth round on Saturday afternoon when we host fellow FA WSL side Everton.
Everton beat us in the league in late November and it was a frustrating game for us, so this is an opportunity to learn from that performance and progress to the next round.
Last season, we reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup so we have plenty of positive memories to look back on.
We would love to go on another cup run this season.
A good run brings so many good feelings to the day-to-day environment – and there is nothing worse as a player than having a free week because you are not in the cup.
Noelle Maritz has joined Villa from Arsenal and she is a great addition to the side. It can be hard to move clubs in January, but she has already shown positive signs of settling in.
She brings a lot of quality from her experience at club and international level, having represented Switzerland more than 100 times.
We have had several players play at full-back this season, but that is not necessarily their preferred position, so bringing in Noelle adds some much-needed depth to our defence.