Back in September when the Orchard WPWL season kicked off no one could have guessed how it would eventually be concluded; however, the Champions will be a surprise to no one.
When the League was suspended in March, Swansea needed to win just two more games to be crowned on the pitch. They had stated their intent from the first match against Cardiff Met and when the season concluded they had gone unbeaten in the League, with a single goal scored against them – in what could have become the shock of the season, Libby Isaac of 8th placed Aberystwyth put the Swans behind, however they soon bounced back and went on to take all three points. In addition to a trophy lift to look forward to, the Swans will be packing their bags for the Women’s Champions League.
Runners up Cardiff Met have an almost equally impressive record, only losing to the eventual champions, and they will want to be reclaiming the title in 2020/21. Cardiff City also put on a strong show to finish in third and will have at least one trophy in the cabinet, with Alana Murphy taking home the Golden Boot and they too will be looking to claim the perch next season.
Port Talbot retained their 4th spot winning seven of the 12 games they played, turning a few more losses into draws could see them progress further next season. Cyncoed will also be satisfied to see the progression they have made, moving from 7th last year up to 5th – they last did this in 2016 and the following season they reached 4th place, something they will no doubt be targeting again in 2020/21.
Usually the bottom end of the table offers little in the way of happiness, however, Briton Ferry Llansawel will be pleased with 6th place, a further steady progression since re-joining the WPWL in 2018/19 and will be wondering ‘what if’ as the team who played fewest game including several against those around them. Abergavenny too should take pride in their season, with their coaches and secretary stepping away from the club last summer, the efforts of then Media Officer Will Cheshire and player managers Ceri Hudson and Laura Davies to keep the club going should not be undervalued. Aberystwyth set themselves a difficult challenge, with an error early in the season seeing them docked three points, it was a mountain to climb, however they too may wonder if it wasn’t something they could have overcome had the season been concluded naturally.
The season itself started with the revamped WPWL Cup, with the introduction of a group stage. The feedback from clubs on this format has been positive, recognising the advantages of increased games and will be continued at least another year. At present plans remain in place to finish the WPWL Cup and hold the final between Cardiff Met and Swansea once the lockdown rules are eased sufficiently for it to be safe to do so. It is also hoped that the semi-finals and final of the FAW Women’s Cup, and U16’s Girl’s Cup Final, will also be able to take place in due course.
The 2019/20 season will no doubt be one that everyone remembers as the year that football was cancelled. The decision to first suspend games and then curtail the season was not an easy one, however at the forefront of everyone’s minds was the safety of all those involved in matches and ensuring our activities did not contribute to the spread of the virus. The Orchard WPWL clubs, alongside their counterparts in the Cymru Leagues, were offered the chance to have their views heard taking into account information we had at the time, UEFA deadlines and the extreme cost of putting in measures for testing, resulting in an overwhelming majority supporting the end of the season.
While this circumstance is a difficult one, there is much to be positive about for women’s football in Wales. With everyone missing the game so keenly at the moment, when the 2020/21 season starts, it will no doubt be back with a bang and our clubs will be out to prove their suggested potential from this year, or further cement their dominance. Off the pitch there is also much to celebrate, with 11 clubs achieving the first WPWL Licence to play in Tier 1 next season (subject to promotion for the Tier 2 clubs), the introduction of Pyramid Regulations for the first time and the creation of an U19’s League; you can find out more about these programme here.
We sign off with a huge congratulations to Swansea City and all involved for their Championship winning season. We’ll go again as soon as we can with the 2020/21 season and I look forward to seeing you all again soon, in the meantime, stay safe.
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