Coventry United: Jay Bradford talks ambitious Championship season ahead

Coventry United head coach Jay Bradord during the Women's Championship match between Coventry United and Charlton Athletic | Copyright: Zac Goodwin

Coventry United have tremendous ambitions this season and they are already turning heads. After becoming full-time and enjoying an impressive summer transfer window, the Red and Greens are all set for the season ahead.

Last campaign, Coventry United successfully fought their way out of a tough relegation battle. Gaining several points in their last few games secured their future in the Women’s Championship.

This season, United are aiming high. Very high. Head Coach Jay Bradford told Her Football Hub she wants to win the league and she’s not shy about admitting it.

Jay Bradford enjoying the journey

At just 30 years old, Bradford is still a very young head coach. She suffered an injury during her playing days, which kickstarted her transition into the coaching side of the game.

When Coventry were promoted into the Championship, Bradford was unable to keep her role because of the license criteria. However, she wanted to stay in the game and remain with Coventry, so she became the club’s General Manager.

Ten months later, she returned as head coach and is both proud and excited to continue the journey.

Jay Bradford of Coventry Utd Ladies after the Women s FA Cup match between Birmingham City and Coventry United | Copyright: Manjit Narotra

Bradford is confident this season will be a stark improvement on the last and says with confidence that the club will not be in another relegation battle.

Bradford was also quick to point out that her backroom staff must take credit for the incredible turnaround in fortune.

“They work incredibly hard to find those one percents that make us better and they were the reason we stayed up.”

High ambitions

The club is fortunate to be supported by a number of local businesses. The extra income has enabled Coventry to go full-time but Bradford believes it’s also about having a real community feel by being attractive from a local perspective.

“It becomes more about helping the community rather than just ticking a box and helping a football club out,” Bradford explained. “That’s what sets us apart.

“For me, winning is the goal but there will be bumps along the way so we’ve got to overcome that and see what happens.”

Successful player recruitment

When asked if she felt the transition from part-time to full-time aided or hindered the recruitment project, Bradford admitted the lure of being full-time made the process easier but she was very clear on who she wanted to bring in.

She made a list and she went after that list hard. Part of her strategy was to look at who has played with who before, and target those players. Bradford was delighted to secure most of the targets on her list and she’s given credit to the players for being very open-minded.

This summer, the Red and Greens have signed Katie Wilkinson, Naomi Hartley, Nat Johnson, Mollie Green, Rio Hardy, Olivia Fergusson, Grace Riglar, Charlie Escourt, and Lucy Thomas.

Bradford describes it as the players taking a “leap of faith.” They are going from part-time to full-time and “putting their trust in the club.”

As for the players retained, Bradford was very clear on why she wanted them and what their role is. With 22 players, she feels she has the balance right to provide cover and keep everyone happy.

Key players to watch

Star striker Katie Wilkinson is obviously going to be a key player with her impressive track record. She’s there to score goals and describes herself as “clinical.” Winning the Golden Boot two seasons in a row speaks for itself.

Katie Wilkinson during the Vitality Women’s FA Cup fifth-round match between Spurs and Sheffield United | Copyright: Adam Davy

Mollie Green is a very technical player who Bradford was delighted to sign. Green has an impressive record of scoring goals from midfield, which will take the pressure off the forwards.

At the back, Bradford describes Naomi Hartley as “an exceptional defender who’s extremely happy to tackle.”

Naomi Hartley in action for Sheffield United | Copyright: Imago

Bradford sees Destiney Toussaint as one of the senior members of the squad who will keep the squad galvanised for a match day. The versatile winger can play in a variety of positions if called upon including centre-back.

Olivia Fergusson comes with a winning mentality, having signed from Championship-winning side Leicester City. Bradford described Fergusson as a “game-changer for us” who “fans will love both on and off the pitch.”

First test against Sunderland

Bradford is very excited to get the season underway with the first game against Sunderland. Being at home in front of your own fans will make such a huge difference.

Their first opponents have a long and rich history in women’s football. Bradford anticipated the Black Cats would be back in the second tier and she can’t wait to play them.

“Anybody who’s played a Sunderland side will know you’re going to get kicked a little bit and they’re going to be up for that battle.”

Coventry United take on Sunderland at the Butts Park Arena on Sunday, August 29th at 2pm.

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