Blues ready for new season opener

You want to win your first game, especially at home. It’s always nice to win. It changes everything: your mood, the way you feel like – everything.

Marta Tejedor.

Blues begin the eagerly-awaited new Barclays FA WSL season at home to Everton Ladies at Solihull Moors on Sunday (2pm).

Manager Marta Tejedor says the team is prepared and raring to go.

"Everyone is excited, we are looking forward to it, and everyone is ready," said Tejedor, who has had her first full pre-season at the helm.

"You want to win your first game, especially at home. It’s always nice to win. It changes everything: your mood, the way you feel like – everything.”

With six new signings in the fold, it could take some time for the side to get a gel. But it won't be for a lack of effort or desire.

Tejedor notes that the group she has brought together are desperate to make their mark; they are a hungry team.

“That is for sure, I would say 100 per cent of them.

“All of them are really committed. All have been working really hard.

“We are not going to make it easy for any team to beat us.”

Blues have Rachel Williams back in the squad after a serious knee injury, but she will be eased in due to the severity of it and lack of action during the past 18 months.

New signings Rebecca Holloway, Adrienne Jordan, Lucy Whipp, Brianni Visalli, Claudia Walker - whose loan from Everton was made permanent - and Abbi Grant are expected to make debuts.

The visitors have also made some significant changes to their squad, bringing in the likes of French midfielder Maeva Clemaron, Dutch defender Kika van Es (both of whom played in the World Cup) and Scotland international Lucy Graham, the ex-Bristol City midfielder.

Tejedor believes this season's contest for silverware will be as tough as it ever has been.

"We have two new teams, just promoted. Big ones. I expect them to be competitive.

“Also the teams who ended in the bottom half last season are reinforcing themselves.

“So if it was closer than other leagues in Europe last season, this year I think it will be even closer.”

Blues were given an eve-of-season boost with the news that Hannah Hampton has signed a new two-year contract.

The newly-capped England Under-21 star reckons the rest of the Barclays FA WSL could underestimate Tejedor's side.

With such a turnover of players this summer, it is somewhat a step into the unknown; no one is quite sure what to expect from Blues until the season is in full swing.

"That comes down in our favour," said Hampton. "Teams in the league may not take us as seriously.

"They might be thinking we are not as prepared or have not as got as many players as last year.

"At the end of the day we can surprise a lot of teams and come out with the result.

"I have nothing to be worried about with our team.

"I just want to help us as best I can and hopefully we can beat our fourth position last year."

Hampton says she was delighted to commit to the Club once more.

It shows the faith all have in her.

"It's what I wanted all along, another contract extension from the Club. I'm really happy and I just feel it's right.

"I wouldn't say all of my performances are up to the standards I ask of myself.

"But I think I keep improving week in, week out and that's what the Club have noticed, that there's some potential there, hopefully."

Defensively, Blues were a strong unit last season. They conceded just 17 goals. But she says it's not about her, but the defensive unit.

"The back five, yes. I couldn't do anything without them. They have saved me so many times.

"At the end of the day, any clean sheet I wouldn't take credit for it. We might get a clean sheet and I haven't made any saves in the game - it's not down to me then.

"The defensive set-up, right from the front, is so important."

As for the latest England recognition, Hampton reflected: "It's massive. I just see it as a normal stepping stone to help me to realise my ambition to get the senior squad.

"I knew when I finished in the Under-19s season it was opening up to the Under-23s age group. And there were only five or six of us from the original 19s who were selected for the 21s. To be in that group was special."