Having recently seen the departures of forward Adelina Engman, defender Deanna Cooper and midfielder Anita Asante, it was evident Chelsea were doing a bit of restructuring. Cooper and Engman scored one vital goal apiece this season, but the trio only featured for a combined 110 minutes in league play. With the additions of Sam Kerr, Jamie-Lee Napier and Melanie Leupolz, it was unlikely that minutes for the former trio would expand.
But as Chelsea aim to repeat our 2019-20 dominance in domestic competitions (League and League Cup Double) in 2020-21, but with added Champions League matches as well, we will need quality depth.
Sadly, the Women’s Super League were not given the same opportunity to resume as the men’s competitions, and title was awarded by The FA on ‘sporting merit’ instead. This meant that Chelsea — the only team not to lose a match all season, and only second in the league table at the time because of points uncollected from a game in hand — were rightly crowned champions. At the other end of the table it meant relegation for Liverpool, and one of their most promising stars seeking a way out.
Welcome to Chelsea, Niamh Charles!
We are delighted to announce the signing of @NiamhCharles7!— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) June 23, 2020
Welcome to Chelsea!
Chelsea only had three draws in the league this season, but one of those was to Liverpool. Charles netted in the fifth minute, and the Blues could only scrape an equalizer before full-time. Charles, who turned 21 just two days ago, fits the mold of the typical Emma Hayes player: young, hard-working, skillful, and eager. She only scored two goals during Liverpool’s dismal 2019-20 season, but the Reds only scored eight all season. She didn’t record an assist in league play, but the Reds only managed two all season.
The Athletic featured a scathing piece detailing how mismanaged and under-resourced the Liverpool women’s team were despite being under the ownership of Fenway Sports Group, who also own the Boston Red Sox and their minor league affiliate, the Salem Red Sox. And according to Wikipedia (which, grain of salt regarding to-the-minute accurate information) they also own 80% of the television network New England Sports Network (NESN) and 50% of NASCAR racing team, Roush Fenway Racing. The saddest part is that for a fraction of what they dole to their other entities, Liverpool could have avoided all of this and finished at least mid-table with just a bit of care.
Women’s football is situated in a prime slot for investment. Leagues around the world are gaining notoriety and access to television and streaming networks while multiple players are becoming household names. The amount needed to invest in a good team is still remarkably small; even less just to become decent. That Liverpool drew with Chelsea in the middle of the season was a signal of the potential in the team, potential that was actively held back by a negligent ownership group.
Charles came up through the Liverpool academy and started her professional career with the Reds in 2016. In a statement posted on her social media channels, she says she’s been a Liverpool supporter for as long as she can remember, and that going from a fan to a player was a dream come true. Given the full statement, there’s little evidence that this wasn’t a move forced by a club unwilling to offer Charles a fraction of the ambition she has for her professional career.
As the Liverpool men march to their first domestic trophy in eight years, and first top-flight trophy in thirty, it will be one to remember and to forget, for reasons out of their control and for reasons well in.
The pandemic, which halted Premier League play for 100 days and emptied stadiums across the continent, is the primary one everyone will consider when looking back. But what Liverpool as an organization allowed to happen to their women’s team in the same year also deserves to be remembered, and is far more damning.
As for her Chelsea career, Charles will be given the comfort of an ambitious club who continue to be most eager in collecting silverware. She will also attempt to grow under the tutelage of Emma Hayes, whose track record with young players continues to impress. Charles already has the experience to play in the top-flight and could spell Erin Cuthbert or Guro Reiten right from the start. She’s made a solid move for her career, and even though she’s a Red, we’re glad she’s now Blue.