Since it’s inception in 2011, nine seasons have taken place in the rebranded elite division of women’s football, the FA Women’s Super League.
In that time, four different teams have won the league title an we have witnessed some of the greatest moments in women’s footballing history. Many superstars from around the world have graced the English leagues but who has made the greatest impact?
Here are the five players who I class as the biggest legends of the FA Women’s Super League.
When I think of the word legend, I think of a player who at her pinnacle was admired and respected by all, who left a lasting effect on her club. For me there is one player that stands at the forefront of my mind: Kelly Smith. I doubt we will ever see someone of her calibre and quality in the league, in our lifetimes if not ever. A prolific goalscorer with world renowned talent which also saw her spend two separate stints playing in the USA as she aimed to broaden her horizons and further develop her skills. Away from her time in America, Smith spent much of her career at Arsenal carving out her legendary status. In just four years in North London between 2005 and 2009, Smith scored 73 goals in just 66 appearances helping her team clinch numerous titles and collecting several personal accolades along the way. In the latter stages of her career between 2012 and 2017, she netted just nine goals in 23 appearances in the FA Women’s Super League, as injuries hampered her career. A striker with natural predatory instincts, Smith has battled through her share of personal issues and potential career ending injuries but still fought back to become one of the country’s most technically gifted and prolific finishers.
Another player who had a ground-breaking effect during her tenure in the FA Women’s Super League is ex Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Katie Chapman. In her illustrious career, she won the three FA Women’s Super League titles and 10 Women’s FA Cups whilst also being named FA Young Player of the Year in both 1998/1999 and 2000/2001. Often referred to as the engine room of the team, she co-ordinated and commanded whole teams from defence right through to attacks. The mum of three returned from each pregnancy to reclaim her spot in the starting line-up, whilst also battling The Football Association for more rights for those choosing to have a baby during their careers. In her time at Chelsea and Arsenal, Chapman racked up a total of 156 appearances and scored 42 goals. The midfielder, who made her senior debut aged just 14 for Millwall Lionesses, also spent time playing in the USA for Chicago Red Stars.
Fara Williams is often a name spoken about when referring to greats of the women’s game and there is a good reason why. The midfielder epitomises determination and tireless work ethic that has seen her have a extraordinary impact on the sport as a modern day trailblazer. She has played for numerous clubs over her stunning career, from 2004 to present today she has amassed an astonishing 230 appearances and scored 104 goals. In her early career, Williams spent a six years homeless, unknown to her teammates and managers, she showed great mental resilience which she now showcases to the many charities that she works with. The Queens New Year Honours list awarded the player with an MBE in 2016 for her services to football and charity, whilst also with the FA Homeless Team. She is a consistent goalscorer and a superb set piece specialist, attributes which many players could only dream of possessing.
One of the greatest FA Women’s Super League players between the sticks is Manchester City’s Karen Bardsley. The Santa Monica-born goalkeeper has played at a whole host of clubs including Linkopings and Sky Blue before entering the FA Women’s Super League with Lincoln. Bardsley has gone on to become a regular for Manchester City often performing spectacular saves, while aiding their success. With City, she has gone on to win three FA Women’s Continental League Cups ,two Women’s FA Cups and one FA Women’s Super League league title. The 35-year-old played an integral role in the club winning their most recent FA Women’s Continental League Cup final in 2019, saving two penalties in the decisive shootout which clinched the team’s victory. Her consistent displays and wonderful saves have certainly earned her the title of one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
My final pick is one which some may consider as strange, but I’ve selected Vivianne Miedema. Despite only playing in the FA Women’s Super League for three years, she has already smashed records and at the age of just 23 will be a legend for many years to come. Despite last season being cut short, in just 24 matches she scored an impressive 29 goals and provided 13 assists for Arsenal. The 2018/2019 campaign proved to be just as fruitful for Miedema with 31 goals in just 28 starts which saw her pick up the PFA Women’s Players Player of the Season. The Netherlands legend who holds the most international goals for both men and women, was also nominated for the second instalment of the Women’s Ballon d’Or in which she was placed fifth. During her time with Arsenal, she has campaigned for more LGBT visibility in the sport in both the men’s and women’s games.
It has been extremely difficult to narrow down thousands of players to just five, with many narrowly missing out of my list. Who would make it into your list of legends?