With the new groundbreaking TV deal coming into force from next season, it is expected many more teams in the Championship will be able to go full-time now as more money trickles down from the WSL.
Since it was rebranded as the FA Women’s Championship, there have been some top quality players who have made a name for themselves without this sort of money. It’s certainly exciting to think about the calibre of players we may be seeing come through the Championship with full-time coaching.
The Championship has been a gold mine for talent over the years with many staying loyal to the league and others having gone on to play in the biggest matches and competitions in the world.
Below is part one of Her Football Hub’s top 10 FA Women’s Championship players of all time.
10. Mel Johnson
The 28-year-old has often been an undervalued member of most squads she has been part of. None more so than last season, when she spearheaded Aston Villa to the Championship title, only to be released in the summer.
Johnson netted 12 goals in just 10 starts last season as she finished as the league’s second top scorer and Villa stormed to promotion. However, she was let go ahead of their debut WSL campaign.Embed from Getty Images
A record of 34 goals in 47 starts while plying her trade for four different sides in the Championship, including Sheffield FC, Leicester City, Villa and now with Sheffield United. Johnson has proved herself to be a versatile and reliable member of any side.
Johnson has spent her career thus far in the Championship having been trusted to feature in at least 14 games every campaign. The attacker can play anywhere across the front line as she has done under Neil Redfearn this season.
9. Siobhan Chamberlain
So, an apology is required for Courtney Sweetman-Kirk who was originally on this top 10 list until I realised every person apart from one was an attacker. Therefore, I thought it was only right to have a player representing the goalkeepers’ union.
Chamberlain spent just one season in the Championship with Manchester United as they stormed to the title in 2019. Stormed is probably being generous, they trampled on every other team as they achieved 55 points with a ridiculous +91 goal difference.Embed from Getty Images
This was largely down to how good Chamberlain was between the sticks. In 20 league games, Man United conceded just seven goals, which is simply unheard of. The first time she had to pick the ball out of her net was in the sixth game of the season through Angela Addison.
That goal ended a 531-minute streak without conceding a goal for the Red Devils. Her leadership from the back and calmness when coming off her line and collecting crosses helped a relatively young United backline.
Chamberlain will go down as one of the best ever Championship keepers and a great person for the city of Manchester. In 2019, she was named the PFA Community Champion for all the work she did in helping the Manchester United foundation grow.
8. Katie Wilkinson
Wilkinson is just 26-years old, however, she firmly deserves her place on this list. Add in the fact she has netted just the mere 43 goals in 64 matches for four different clubs, it’s quite the achievement.
Having been around the Birmingham City squad which made the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2014, she has learned her trade from the likes of Rachel Yankey and Alex Scott.
She made the switch across the Midlands to Villa next where she scored 13 goals across two seasons and 12 games.
Her abillity to adapt her game depending on the oppositon is what makes her so difficult to mark. Then it was London Bees for two less than productive seasons, however, her move to Sheffield United has really lit a fire inside her.Embed from Getty Images
34 goals in 34 games. There’s not much more convincing required as to why she’s made the list at the tender age of 26. However, 15 in 14 last campaign saw her do the double. Wilkinson scooped the player of the year and top scorer award for the Championship, without being in a side that won promotion.
Sheffield United finished a disappointing 4th this season but Wilkinson did not follow suit. The striker finished as the league’s top scorer with 19 goals in 19 league starts. It equates to Wilkinson scoring over 50% of the Blades goals this season.
Having watched Wilkinson first hand, her goal-scoring record only tells half the story, maybe not even that. She attracts defenders, leaving spaces in-behind for others to operate in. She’s intelligent on the ball, being able to pick out a pass while clearly thinking of what her next run needs to be.
7. Jess Sigsworth
Sigsworth’s Championship form has not followed her into the WSL. However, it’s difficult to forget how great she was for both Donny Belles and Man United and why she is seventh in our top 10 list.
The 26-year old was the top scorer for the Belles in their final Championship campaign with 15 goals. Proving she was not a flash in the pan, Sigsworth was the main striker for Casey Stoney during their title-winning season. She improved that season, netting 17 times as well as winning one player of the month award.Embed from Getty Images
In football, one of the worst injuries a player can pick up is a cruciate ligament. This was the news Sigsworth received in August 2016. Many carry mental and physical scars, however, Sigsworth responded the only way a striker can. Becoming the Golden Boot winner in back-to-back seasons saw Sigsworth etch her name into Championship history as one of the best strikers to feature in the second tier.
6. Jade Pennock
Pennock is Sheffield United’s top scorer and assister in the FA Women’s Championship era. It feels as if she is criminally underrated because she often does a lot of work that goes unnoticed.
Having scored her 26th goal for the Blades last October, she stamped her name in their hall of fame. This adds to the fact she was Sheffield United’s Player of the Year in 2019 as Pennock netted eight times during the 2018/19 campaign.
Having scored 25 in 50 league games for United since she joined in 2018, Pennock has become a legend at the Blades despite just hitting her peak at 28-years-old now.Embed from Getty Images
Her ability to play anywhere across the front three could see her make the leap into the WSL next season. If not, Pennock will be a leading star in the Championship next term.
Pennock can act as a natural winger, willing to cut inside but also put the dirty yards in by tracking back and helping the side out. However, being deployed as a striker can see her being equally as effective. Her pace and intelligence to spin off the last defender has been a well-known trait during her Championship career, but one which many still can’t stop.
Watch this space for part two of our Top 10 FA Women’s Championship players of the era…