By Abi Ticehurst (20/5/22).
Above: Brooke Chaplen (centre) walking out onto her home pitch with Reading. Photo: Reading FC Women.
Reading’s Brooke Chaplen retired from professional football at the conclusion of the FAWSL season. The midfielder had been sidelined for the Royals since November due to injury, but her season was indefinitely put on pause in February when it was confirmed she had a tumour in her leg which required surgery.
Speaking about operation, Chaplen said: “It was successful, the tumour has been removed and scans show that there’s no sign of it left which is obviously great news. Unfortunately, the operation that I had to have meant that a couple of knee ligaments attached at that point weren’t able to be saved and as a result of that I’ve been advised that playing football going forward won’t be an option for me”.
Chaplen has an impressive set of stats in the FA Women’s Super League, having made 143 appearances, scoring 29 goals, winning 50 games, and completing 2286 passes which is testament to the attacking midfielder she has developed into.
Portsmouth-born Chaplen began her youth career playing for side in Southampton and Portsmouth from the age of 13. She began her senior career at Portsmouth in 2005 and she spent three years at the club.
Chaplen then moved to Chelsea on a year-long deal and scored a single goal for the West London side in a 5-0 victory against local rivals Fulham.
Everton then came calling for the Hampshire-born midfielder where she spent five years making 51 appearances for the Toffees and netting three goals. Everton were involved in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in the 2010/11 season and Chaplen was pivotal in their campaign, scoring a hat-trick against MTK Hungaria in the Round of 32 and a brace against Brøndby IF in the Round of 16. Everton were however relegated in 2014 and that prompted a move to promoted Sunderland Ladies where she scored six goals in 25 appearances.
She signed on a free transfer to Sunderland and played for the Black Cats for just one season between 2015 and 2016.
Chaplen joined Reading in the 2017/18 season and made 94 appearances and scored 26 goals as a Royal. She was the top goalscorer for the club in her first season and has been a stalwart for the club for the last five years.
Speaking about her time at Reading, the midfielder said: “I’ve been here a long time, I feel like I’m part of the furniture at the club, I have some great memories, I feel like I developed most as a player here and that’s credit to the staff and coaching staff and how much they invest in me as a player, I can’t speak highly enough of the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had.”
On her favourite memory at the Berkshire club, she revealed, ”The first time we played Man United, it was a really tough, aggressive game and it wasn’t a great goal but at the time they were our rivals. And at home at Adams Park against City scoring on the half volley there”.
Chaplen also represented England at age-group levels, making her debut for the U19s in 2008 against Germany. She also represented the U20s and U23s, she played in the World Cup, the Four Nations Tournament, and La Manga Tournament. She scored one goal in a 2-0 win over Chile in the U20 World Cup.
Looking ahead to the future, Chaplen said: “I’ve been away studying for a few years looking at the business side of football so I really hope so but right now I obviously still have the injury that I suffered in November that got put on the back burner because of the tumour so just to get fit and healthy”.
Chaplen has been an often underrated midfielder, perhaps for her quiet consistency but will be much missed by the Reading squad and has had a genuine impact on the development of the women’s game and the FA Women’s Super League.