It’s been another great year for women’s football and eight Impetus writers, Ben Gilby, Johnathan Stack, Ben Carey, Emmanuel Faith, Kieran Yap, Darrell Allen, Nathan Edwards, and Kris Goman highlight their team, player, coach, and unsung hero of the year. In true Impetus style, there are representatives from the top-flight and grassroots levels of the women’s game (30/12/22).
Team of the Year:
BEN GILBY: England. It’s more than just becoming the first English national football team to win a major honour since 1966, it’s about what they have done for the sport in the UK. The young girls they have inspired, the new fans they have brought in, and the visibility they still have almost five months on from that game at Wembley.
JOHNATHAN STACK: England. Unbeaten in 2022, became European Champions on home soil and one of best teams right now.
BEN CAREY: There’s no question about it. The team of the year has to be England. Their incredible run at the Euros to claim their first-ever major title was quite simply breathtaking. Some amazing individual performances, but more importantly stellar teamwork throughout the tournament. England also beat the best team in the world, the USA, at Wembley Stadium, which is another incredible achievement. In terms of the club game, Barcelona are worthy of recognition. Dominant in the Liga F with 30 wins out of 30. They also won their domestic cup and made the Champions League Final for the second year running.
EMMANUEL FAITH: While the Lionesses have made history and finally brought the trophy home with monumental performances, The Spanish U17 and U20 youngsters have conquered the world, achieving these goals with style and finesse. With the current standstill between the Spanish senior team and the national football association, we might see some of these youngsters in Australia and New Zealand next year.
KIERAN YAP: I hate to admit it as an Aussie, but it’s The Lionesses. Their Euros tournament was thrilling to watch, and the excitement was palpable from across the world. It’s hard not to love them.
NATHAN EDWARDS: There have been many great teams at club level and international level this year, once again showing the huge growth of talent in the game, but England finally completed the task of bringing football home, in front of a packed-out Wembley Stadium. It was a great way for Ellen White and Jill Scott to bow out from the game and hopefully, the victory against Germany will be a catalyst for change in women’s football within the country.
KRIS GOMAN: While it’s tempting to go on about Arsenal or one of my favourite Sydney or NWSL teams, or even the Matildas, I really don’t think anything can beat what the English Women’s National Team, the Lionesses, achieved this northern summer at the Euros. Apart from bringing it home, they galvanised a nation and did more for women’s football than any team before them. On social media I watched a country move from “nobody cares” to, not only people knowing their names, but actively supporting them. As someone who’s been banging the drum of women’s football for a while, it was incredible to watch. There was a palpable change of attitude and it was down to this team. To top it off with Jill Scott winning I’m a Celebrity and Beth Mead winning the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, among other awards, it just shows the shift in attitude.
DARRELL ALLEN: University of East Anglia. Promoted out of the tier eight Norfolk Women’s and Girls Football League Division Two in their first season and now ripping it up in Division One with five wins from their opening six games, a stunning League Cup win at Mulbarton in November clinched them this award and there is a lot to come from Tom Peck’s team in 2023.
Player of the Year:
BEN GILBY: Alessia Russo. Simply in terms of how she has grown from January to December 2022. The Manchester United attacker went into the European Championships with seven caps and four goals. Russo wasn’t quite being talked up as a potential household name in the same way that the likes of Beth Mead, Ellen White, and Lucy Bronze were. Yet, by the time of the knock-out stages, Russo was rapidly becoming a superstar who embraced the pressure of a home tournament and was well on her way to becoming a national hero. Four further goals during the tournament, and two more since the tournament have launched the Maidstone-born 23-year-old into the category of sensation. Four goals in seven FAWSL appearances this season for Manchester United so far is another positive reward.
JOHNATHAN STACK: Beth Mead. An absolute baller who had an incredible Euros and a good start to the WSL season until her injury.
BEN CAREY: Beth Mead. She scored 25 goals and 18 assists for club and country. Those numbers are simply astonishing. There were a few strikers who scored more goals, such as Sam Kerr, Ewa Pajor, and Sophia Smith, but they all had far fewer assists. Mead is an absolute team player. She also won player of the match twice during the Euros, and the Golden Player award (player of the tournament).
EMMANUEL FAITH: Beth Mead has had a remarkable 2022, from a superb WSL run where she was part of the team of the season, to winning the player of the tournament and the golden boot at Women’s Euros. Mead has shown the world what she is made up of and it is really heart-wrenching that she injured her ACL recently.
KIERAN YAP: Katrina Gorry. The Matildas looked like a completely different side when Gorry returned to the national team setup. There was more composure and creativity in the midfield, more danger from long range, and she linked the defence with midfield in a way we’ve rarely seen. Gorry has been Australia’s best player as their form started to improve. There should be a royal commission into why previous national team managers ignored her.
NATHAN EDWARDS: Beth Mead. What a year for the Arsenal star! Along with winning the Euros as the competition’s top goalscorer, she finished second place in the Ballon d’Or, only being pipped by the mercurial Alexia Putellas, but one accolade tops it all off. She made history last week, becoming the first female footballer to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, a great and well-deserved achievement. She sadly had her time on the pitch in 2022 cut short due to a heart-breaking ACL injury, but she will come back fighting like she always does when faced with a challenge.
KRIS GOMAN: Beth Mead. I’m signing up for this bandwagon. She’s been on fire for club and country. Obviously, an incredible performance at the Euros but every part of her game has come together. Trying not to think about the ACL situation…
DARRELL ALLEN: Katie Knights. An instrumental part of Wymondham Town’s treble-winning season in 2021/2022 including winning the player of the match award in the Harrod Sports Final at Carrow Road, Knights had more than earned her move to tier four FA Women’s National League Division One South-East side Norwich City where she has lit up multiple matches and been a huge part of Norwich City’s increased success this season.
Coach of the Year:
BEN GILBY: Sarina Wiegman. Unbeaten as England coach, unbeaten in the European Championships. The organisation and belief that she injected into a team who had promised so much but never quite managed to achieve since 2015 was the work of someone at the absolute top of their career.
JONATHAN STACK: Sarina Wiegman. It’s a no-brainer. The FA did remarkably well to get Wiegman from the Dutch National Team where she won the Euros, and she repeated the achievement this year with the Lionesses.
BEN CAREY: Sarina Wiegman led England to a first-ever major title at the Euros, which was amazing. But perhaps even more incredible is that it was Wiegman’s second Euros win in a row, after leading the Netherlands to the title in 2017. Also, she led England to a flawless World Cup qualification with zero lapses in form. 80 goals for and 0 against. That should, quite frankly, be illegal.
EMMANUEL FAITH: Sarina Wiegman. The reasons are obvious, she is an absolute genius on and off the field. Engaging in interviews, and her in-game management are just two of the many qualities that make her stand out.
KIERAN YAP: A little closer to home, and it’s Jeff Hopkins of Melbourne Victory. Despite an injury and COVID-ravaged season, which included a packed February schedule, they won the Championship for a second year running. Hopkins carefully managed his team and trusted his young players to get them through to the finals. He refused to rush star striker Melina Ayres back until she was 100% fit. The results were implausible but glorious.
NATHAN EDWARDS: It has been very England-centric so far, but it that is because of the size of the achievements obtained this year, and the main factor in the Lionesses’ success has been their Dutch coach, Sarina Wiegman. She has added the final layer to this England side and taken them to continental glory, showing off her intriguing character and tactical intelligence along the way.
KRIS GOMAN: Sarina Wiegman. What she’s done for the Lionesses has rocked women’s football. Her second Euros. No losses. And she seems to be a really nice person that the players love. I’ve bought the T-shirt. Literally.
DARRELL ALLEN: Adrian Tink. Someone who conducts himself in a remarkable professional way, out of the noise and out of the limelight. Dussindale and Hellesdon Rovers scored 130 goals and finished second last season as well as winning the Plate. They are coached to incredibly high standards and look well placed to do even better this time around with seven wins from their opening eight games so far this season.
BEN GILBY: Ashlee Hincks. The 34-year-old AFC Wimbledon striker capped a sensational season by winning the club’s player of the season award – which, as part of the Dons’ ‘one club’ ethos, saw the club’s female and male players contesting the same award. Hincks comfortably beat off her male counterparts to take the trophy to a standing ovation at a packed Plough Lane stadium. The former Chelsea, Millwall, and Crystal Palace player, who took part in two FA Cup Finals and played for England at youth levels, scored 40 goals in 35 games last season for The Dons, and by the start of this month had already amassed 22 for the FA Women’s National League Division One South-East side. Hincks is an absolute joy to watch.
JOHNATHAN STACK: Alessia Russo. An incredible player who had a strong Euros with an amazing goal against Sweden, and Russo has brought that form into the WSL for Manchester United.
BEN CAREY: Guro Reiten. She had a staggering 11 goals and 19 assists for club and country, consistently performing for Norway and Chelsea (in the WSL, the FA Cup, and the Champions League). In terms of elsewhere, my standout goalkeepers this year were Mary Earps, Merle Frohms, and Manuela Zinsberger. Each of these keepers had over 15 clean sheets for club and country. The defenders that caught my attention were Leah Williamson, Millie Bright, Steph Catley, Mapi Leon, Lucy Bronze, Naomi Girma, Selma Bacha, and Wendie Renard. Finally, there were some incredible midfield performances by Katrina Gorry, Lena Oberdorf, Grace Geyoro, and Alexia Putellas.
EMMANUEL FAITH: Erin Cuthbert. I don’t know how she misses out on all noticeable awards and selections, but what Cuthbert has done for the Chelsea team is beyond comprehension. It’s sad that we won’t be seeing her in the World Cup but if Chelsea’s success last season is to be replicated then the Scot is an ingredient that mustn’t go missing.
KIERAN YAP: Charli Grant. She’s a favourite of Impetus, and her potential has not been a secret for some time, but Charli Grant has been vital to The Matildas in Ellie Carpenter’s absence. Grant has similar attributes to Carpenter and could have tried to play the same way as the Lyon star, but she had brought her own style to the role. Her two-footed passing and off-the-ball movement makes her an asset to the team. Grant has risen from fringe player to one of the real barometers for Australia.
NATHAN EDWARDS: Rukhsana Hussain. Although Hussain isn’t a sports star in the sense of lighting up stadiums and producing magical performances for the world to see, she isn’t even a footballer but a vital part of the footballing community within Leicester. She was nominated for this unsung hero award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards and this is because of her work in growing the sport within the Muslim community of all ages, and it isn’t just 2022 that she deserves this title but for the past seven years.
KRIS GOMAN: I’m tempted to go for someone like Ashleigh Neville that has killer game after killer game both in attack and defence but never gets a call up to the Lionesses but I’m going to go for Millie Bright. An absolute rock in defence and while she’s not exactly unsung, defenders don’t get the same attention as forwards and never get the opportunity to win a golden boot. She played the fifth most minutes of anyone on the team. They only conceded two goals the whole tournament – one against Spain and one against Germany in the final, largely down to her defence. While the whole team has obviously enjoyed the accolades, the spotlight has been on the forwards. I could use a similar argument for Keira Walsh too.
DARRELL ALLEN: Charnelle Riggall. Quite simply one of the nicest and most helpful people in the Norfolk Women and Girls League. Charnelle captains Bungay Town with impressive leadership and people skills. Charnelle is happy to lend a hand, give advice, and all is done with a smile on her face. A true star of Norfolk Football.