Chambers Positive Ahead Of United Clash

by Holly Wright (16/9/22)

Above: Reading head coach Kelly Chambers. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Reading kick-off their Barclays Women’s Super League campaign at Manchester United at midday tomorrow – a team that head coach Kelly Chambers describes as “one of the toughest teams in the league.”

Chambers also highlighted her eagerness for the campaign to get underway. “Yeah, look, we’re just excited to get going. We just want a competitive game really. We want to kick off on a positive and what a way to start than in the same way we began last season. So yeah, everyone’s raring to go and I think we’re just bored of preseason now and want to get going.”

The cancellation of last weekend’s opening fixture under unforeseen circumstances could be seen as a missed opportunity after the Lionesses’ success in the summer, but the Reading head coach remains optimistic for the season ahead in terms of attracting a good crowd.

“Obviously, it’s something that we had to do. We had to show our respects but for us and probably everyone else wanting to kick off the league, it was frustrating. We were due to have over 4,000 fans there in that game, and you kind of go that would have been the biggest crowd we’ve ever had at that stadium. People have worked really, really hard to try and grow the club so yeah, it’s definitely a missed opportunity. Just hope that those people that bought tickets for last weekend will come to the next game and make sure they see it for themselves to hopefully fall in love just as much as we do.”

After the tragic death of Queen Elizabeth ll delayed the start of the WSL season last weekend as a mark of respect, Chambers spoke of how her preparations have changed from what was going to be a record crowd at home to newly promoted Liverpool to champions league contenders Manchester United. “They are a team that are competing to be in the Champions League and for a club like Man United, that’s where they definitely should be. So, we know it’s going to be a tough game and I feel like more so this season.”

“For us, it’s about staying in the game as long as possible. We know that a weakness of theirs right now or it has been in the past, is the end of the game. They’ve chucked a lot of points away in latter stages of games.

Emma Chambers, Reading head coach on Manchester United.

“I’ve got a team that’s full of confidence right now, in terms of the way that we’re playing and the way that we want to do stuff. It’s important for me, and for them, that they turn up at United, and they put a mark on there on the pitch and make sure that were fully in the game from the off.”

Above: Emma Chambers is confident that her team can take points at Leigh Sports Village tomorrow. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Chambers was also full of praise for new club captain Emma Mukandi (aka Mitch) who was awarded the armband after recently signing a new deal with the club. “It’s something I wanted to take time to do. I wanted to get a real good feel for players in preseason, just work with them and let everybody settle.

“Mitch is like a new signing to me after not having her much last season. She has got a huge depth of knowledge and experience in the women’s game, obviously, being at Arsenal, and she’s a winner. She’s a competitor and I want this environment to be challenging every day. So that’s why I’ve gone with Mitch because I think that’s what she’ll bring.

Reading’s head coach added what she thinks Mitch will bring to the squad not just as a captain and what it meant to her personally. “She will make sure that people keep high standards. She will make sure that people are living and breathing what we want to do every day that’s the reason I picked her. I think she was quite surprised.

“Like I said she’s been away from us for quite a while, so she definitely wasn’t expecting it but seemed really pleased. She was quiet. She said to me, she was honoured to be even just thought about to be selected and to work closely with me. Yeah, I’m really excited to be leading the way with Grace this year.”

Like their hosts, the Royals have added to their squad in the summer transfer market with six new signings and they will be keen to use them to improve on their eighth-place finish last season with Chambers believing they are in a much stronger position this season after struggling with injuries towards the latter end of last season.

“I’ve put together a real good squad in terms of strength and depth. The competition for places here and having a challenging environment is key and I think that’s really what’s driving the standards and us a club right and as a team.”

Above: Reading preparing on the training pitch this week. Photo: Reading FC Women.

Since the Royals beat United at Leigh Sports Village in February 2021, they have only dropped eight points with fellow title contenders Chelsea and Arsenal being the only sides to beat them, but Chambers feel like the women’s game is on an all-time high and it is important for clubs to capitalise on the publicity created by the Lionesses winning the Euros.  

“It’s magnificent for the game. This is what we want. We wanted to grow fan bases. We want more crowds in stadiums, and that is high on the agenda for every club in this league right now. I think that’s been the immediate impact from the Euros. When your country wins a competition like that you’ve got to use that, and we’ve got to try and really grow the game. It’s made people in this country more aware of the sport, and the quality of it. I think people just fell in love with it. Everyone I speak to about it, and people speak to me, they have fallen in love with women’s football just from that and it’s just great now for us as clubs to see the benefit of that as well.

Reading are currently the only non-Premier League team with a club in the WSL, but the club deserve their status: “Yeah, for us, it’s a sense of pride,” Chambers said, “We’re proud to be where we are. I think we always have been. Some might say that we’ve always punched above our weight. But I truly believe that we deserve to be there.

After a positive start which included an eight-game unbeaten run with seven of them being wins stretching from October to February they probably should have finished at least in the top half of the table, but last season’s campaign ended in frustrating circumstances falling to seven defeats in 10 games achieving only three points meaning the Royals tumble down the league table as a result of limited resources due to injuries.

Reading will hope they can begin the new campaign with their first WSL victory since February 6th when face they Manchester United on Saturday lunchtime 12pm kick-off at Leigh Sports Village.

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