Are Brighton finally learning from…Brighton?
Brighton and Hove Albion have been the doyennes of English men’s football for a couple of seasons now, with their scouting prowess in combination with savvy managerial appointments seeing them punch well above their weight in the Premier League. Yet on the women’s side of things, the Seagulls have not found themselves quite so highly regarded. Having successfully applied to join the WSL for the 2018/19 season, their highest finish in the league is sixth and they find themselves pretty far off their stated aim in 2015 to reach the Champions League within five years. But could the tides of change be about to be felt along the south coast?
It is fair to say that last season was not Brighton’s finest hour. The club went through a huge turnover of players in the summer ahead of 2022/23 and lost four of their first five matches (although to be fair to Hope Powell and her team, three of those losses were against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United). The nail in the coffin for Powell’s tenure however was an 8-0 demolition by a Tottenham team who had never scored more than four in a WSL match. After five years at the helm of the club, Brighton were going to get a new manager for the first time ever in the WSL.
This did not prove to be any of the seamless transition that onlookers might have expected from Brighton’s general ‘savvy’ reputation. Former Bayern Munich manager Jens Scheuer’s appointment lasted all of 68 days with Amy Merricks back in interim charge far quicker than she might have imagined. In the end, they appointed Melissa Philips who herself had taken a brief sojourn as an assistant coach at Angel City after leaving London City Lionesses in January.
Philips did what she was required to do from that point and kept Brighton up, with seven of their 16 points coming during her seven game spell, although she did lose their final three. Generally, the mood around her appointment was positive with people feeling like Brighton had improved even if defensively they remained somewhat suspect. This season however more will be expected.
That is because Brighton have had one of the most eye-catching summer windows of any club in the WSL. There have been ten different incomings with eight of those being paid for by the club. But it is not just the volume of players which have drawn attention, but who those players are. There is a Champions League winner, an NWSL first round draft pick, and the player with the best goals per 90 ratio of anyone in WSL history.
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