Friday 3rd September 2021
Royal Wootton Bassett Town Ladies may be entering their third season in the South West Regional Women's Football League Premier Division. However, given the cancellation of their two previous campaigns as a result of the pandemic, it's safe to say that it's a division to which the team still aren't fully acclimatised.
And that's arguably even more the case heading into the 2021-22 season.
Of the ten sides they will come up against, Bassett have only ever met six in competitive action – with the most games Bassett have played against a single opponent being the four contests they have had against Ilminster Town.
Added to that, Bassett enter the new season yet to play a competitive contest under manager Graham Fletcher – appointed back in November. Meanwhile, the summer has seen their squad receive an injection of youth, with a number of players set to make their first steps in senior football.
Setting clear expectations for this season is therefore difficult to do. Nonetheless, Fletcher and his side will hope to be competitive.
A large proportion of last season's squad has been retained, although there have been some losses. Grace Eagles – who starred in the numerous friendly games played last season – and Beth Kelloway have departed to play higher level football with Swindon Town. Goalkeeper Abi Footner has joined Larkhall Athletic. Meanwhile, forward Lani Dickinson and midfielder Lois Beer are both studying in America.
But the backbone of the side remains familiar, with stalwarts Laura Jefferies, Amber Egerton, Holly Baker, Lisa Coe, Maddy Elliott, Hannah Gulliver, Hayley Huckin and Aly Lyons all staying with Bassett. Experienced shotstopper Sam Wood has also put pen to paper, returning to the club from Highworth Town.
At the back, in 'keeper Alice Farnell and defenders Mollie Smith, Lara Wilson and Rosie Kirk, Bassett also have a quartet of promising young players boasting experience at this level, with cultured midfielder Emma Sykes re-signing as well.
Added to that has been further young blood – and it is extremely pleasing to see a number of players who have progressed through the club's youth section set to take the step into senior women's football in this coming campaign.
Energetic forward Poppy Wannell has already shown what she is capable of with two goals in pre-season. Ellie O'Nions is a midfielder with a great left foot who first saw action in friendlies at the end of 2020-21 and, with the right coaching, has the ability to make the step up. Also coming through the club's youth ranks alongside them are forward Jorja Halden and defender Rakhi Patel.
They are joined by two further quality players who have most recently gained experience playing in the Wiltshire County Women's League. Striker Libby Davies, who scored six times on loan at Melksham Town last season, is an adventurous attacker who will be looking to cement a place as a Bassett regular. Olivia Owenson, a player who is confident in either defence or attack, joins from Ashton Keynes and will be aiming to do likewise.
It is hoped that the blend of youth and experience will be the right one for Bassett. There may be some growing pains. But there's bound to be plenty to celebrate throughout the season as well.Last modified on Friday 3rd September 2021 at 16:33.