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The NWSL Is Close To Returning...

 


We are edging closer and closer to the return of the NWSL however, there will be a Challenge Cup tournament before the start of the  regular season. It is nice to see another competition introduced in the States as when you look around the world the majority of leagues have multiple competitions played throughout the year where as with the NWSL it was the regular season and that is it. However, after the Challenge Cup replaced the regular season last year due to the pandemic it looks like the league are adding it to upcoming years, or at least just this year which means players are getting much more game time and fans get to see more from their favourite players. I think this could really end up benefiting the league as I think more games and an extra tournament could also bring in a lot more fans especially International ones. 

The players reported for preseason back on February 1st ready for the preseason fixtures and the start of the Challenge Cup on April 9th. It is going to be nice having the Cup played before the season starts as it is a chance for players to get back into the swing of things after some have had a year out due to injuries and the pandemic. It will also give the managers a chance to see what they are working with for the upcoming season and if any areas need improvement or strengthening. 

Following the completion of the Challenge Cup the 10 NWSL teams will then compete in the regular season which start on May 15th and will consist of 24 games so it should be a nice long season and added with the Challenge Cup fixtures fans are in for plenty of opportunities to see their favourite teams. What I like most about this season though is that there isn't going to be a break for the Olympics if it goes ahead. I like the fact there isn't going to be a break as it should mean that a lot of younger fringe players get the chance to make their mark on the season and make a name for themselves which they might not have got if the bigger names didn't have to leave for the tournament. 

The regular season is due to end on October 30th 2021 so a little later than in previous years with six teams qualifying for an extended playoff that is due to begin on November 6th. The top two seeds with receive a first round bye for this and the season will end on November 20th with the Championship. This is definitely ending later than it usually would but with the pandemic I think this is the best way to ensure the league still goes ahead. 

Once the season is over it is a case of jumping straight into planning for the leagues 10th season in 2022. There will be an expansion draft held on December 16th which will feature Angel City FC and Sacramento. I am really interested to see how this draft goes as for years there have been fan theories floating around in regards to which players will end up at these teams due to the location so it is going to be good to see if any of them are true or not. To be honest though I am more excited to see the league expanding to 12 teams as I think it is going to make the league more competitive and introduce some great new talents to the competition. 

 What I am really interested to see this season is how teams perform without some of the big name players that have gone abroad since the last regular NWSL season. With the likes of Tobin Heath, Christen Press, Sam Mewis, Abby Dahlkemper, Hayley Raso, Alanna Kennedy and Rose Lavelle to name just a few players all now playing in the UK in the WSL there is a whole load of talent that have left the NWSL and gone on to new challenges. This has left teams with big roles to fill and there has also been a lot of movement within the NWSL with big names switching teams so it will definitely be an interesting season which is potentially a lot more competitive. 

It is sure to be a good year for the NWSL with the Challenge Cup and the regular season with most of 2021 filled with games, I just can't wait for it to all kick off on April 9th, fingers crossed a lot of games are at reasonable times for the international fans too so I can catch as much of the action as possible. I am looking forward to bringing you plenty of NWSL content throughout the year so keep an eye out for plenty more posts coming soon. 

Updated Shirt Collection At The Start Of 2021

Since my last football shirt collection posts it is safe to say I have purchased or received a few more shirts than I expected. Some I have purchased myself, some I have received as gifts and others have been giving to me my mum from her collection. There is definitely a nice mixture of clubs and a few national team shirts within this post and to be honest it is nice to see how much of a mix there is. So here are the shirts I have picked up since my previous post...


Liam got me this long sleeved Rangers 2019/20 shirt for Christmas and I absolutely love it. This is actually my first long sleeved shirt and what a start with my first Rangers shirt. I have wanted a Rangers shirt for a long time now and this one ticks all the boxes, it is such a simple shirt but I love it, the quality is brilliant too.


For Christmas my parents got me this Score Draw 1982 England shirt. I don't know what it is about this shirt but it is one of my favourite England ones. This Score Draw replica shirt is fantastic and is great quality, I know I will never have the original of this shirt but the Score Draw one really makes up for that. 


You just cant beat a shirt with a collar so when I found my mum's 2001/03 Bradford City shirt I chanced it a bit and asked if I could have it and now it is nicely stored in my collection. I am so glad my mum kept hold of this one as it is definitely one of my favourites with minimal writing on it there is just the central badge and the sponsor so it is kept nice and basic. 


My mum had also kept hold of my 1999/2001 shirt  which I am really grateful for as even though it is never going to fit me again it is a really nice shirt to have that has plenty of memories behind it. The thing I love most about this one though is the collar with Bantams on it I absolutely love this. 


Whilst we were up in the loft we also found mine and my mum's 2001/03 away shirt and my matching one. I love how she kept hold of both and to have them both in my collection is fantastic. Plus my mum's actually fits me so I can go back and wear it if I want too. 


We also managed to find my Manchester United 2008/09 40th anniversary shirt whilst we were in the loft. This is one of my favourite Manchester United shirts due to it being to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1968 European cup victory against Benfica. I have the programme from this game and my grandparents also got me this shirt with Best 7 on the back which for me makes it that bit more special for me.  



Over on Twitter I managed to win a charity auction for the Lionesses 2019 World Cup shirt. I couldn't bring myself to pay full price for this shirt when it came out but I really wanted to add it to my collection so when the auction came up i started bidding straight away and won it. The details on this shirt are absolutely amazing and Nike did a great job for the Lionesses first shirt away from the men's team. I hope they do something like this for the Euros and the next Women's world cup too. 


I have quite a few FIFA shirts in my collection so when FIFA 21 was released I had to pick this one up too as I absolutely love the design on it. 


It is actually quite rare that I love England shirts and want to pay full price for one but the 2020/21 shirt is definitely an exception from that as once I saw it was available I knew I was getting it as soon as possible. I love the blue and red with the detailing in the print of the shirt which is just fantastic like with the Lionesses shirt. Plus it has a collar which makes it a 10/10 for me. 
 

Leanne over on Twitter got in touch with me to see if I was interested in any of the items she was selling I couldn't turn down this signed Carli Lloyd shirt. I am still upset that I never got to see Lloyd play at Man City when she was over here but this shirt is going straight into the hallway with my other special shirts, I love it.


Finally we have this Copa replica Juventus 1992 shirt which surprise surprise has a collar. I don't usually bother with replica's like this as they aren't authentic however, I wasn't leaving this one. I love the shirt with the classic Juventus stripes and the sponsor blending with the stripes instead of being too much of a distraction. This is a really good take on the original Kappa shirt. 

I seem to have received a lot of new shirts but I can only see my collection growing even more throughout this year and beyond so I will keep doing these update posts as more come in. What shirt would you like most out of this post? I can't decide my favourite. 

My Current Favourite FAWSL Players

It has definitely been strange watching the FAWSL without the fans in the grounds but it is just really great having the competition back and thanks to the current pandemic situation we have had some great players come into the league that honestly I don't think would have come if the NWSL would have had a regular season in 2020. Players have come over to increase their chances of getting into getting into their countries Olympic teams and continue getting game time to keep. up their fitness. I really do believe that these players coming over has also pushed those who have played in the league for a few seasons as they have a lot of competition now for their space on the team. So here are my current favourite players in the league...


Of course Tobin Heath is on this list. Tobin is one of my favourite footballers and has been for a long time now so to have her in the UK is fantastic. Granted she may have picked the wrong side of Manchester for me but before she picked up her recent injury she was showing us the Tobin we all love. Her quality on the ball is unbelievable and she slotted into the United team really well. I just hope she recovers from her injury soon and soon reaches this great form once again as she can really help United push for that top spot and one of those Champions League places. Fingers crossed Heath also signs a contract extension too to keep her at the club a little longer so fans can see for themselves what she is capable of and not just see it through the TV screen. 
 

Leah Galton is having an absolutely fantastic season and she is really finding her form at the moment. This season Galton just seems to have really stepped up and has been vital in helping United get as many points as they have. Galton is fantastic at getting forward and creating assists but she is also fantastic at getting a goal when needed too as we have seen plenty of times from her already this season. Galton is definitely going to play a big part in keeping Manchester United in the top 3 of the table and pushing for a Champions League spot which they definitely deserve this season. 


For me Sam Mewis has been one of the best newcomers to the league. She has made a very positive impact on the Man City side and I believe that since she joined the side the team have looked a lot more put together and complete. She has already shown what she is capable of in front of the goal and in the midfield. I really look forward to seeing Mewis' name on the squad sheet as you know that she is definitely going to add that extra threat and depth to the squad that Man City lacked at the end of last season. It is great to see how easily she has slotted into English football and let's hope she is here for plenty more seasons.


If you are looking for a no nonsense defender in the women's game look no further than Mille Bright. Bright has been one of my favourites for quite a few years now as she is a brilliant defender who doesn't mess around and isn't afraid to make a challenge. For me Bright is also one of the most consistent defenders in the league and has really helped Chelsea when it has been needed most, not only with her defending abilities but she is also threat in attack too whether it is a header or a long range strike she isn't afraid to give it a go. I would go as far as saying Bright is my favourite English defender overall at the moment and I hope she is one of the first names on the Team GB Olympic team sheet. 


Since Fran Kirby's return to action after her lengthy illness it is clear she has made plenty of improvements and is back in fine form. I don't know if it is the fight for a place on the team sheet or just to show people she is still capable of being a top quality player but Kirby is possibly in the finest form I have seen from her in years. Chelsea have brought in plenty of quality strikers and midfielders over the past few seasons so competition at the club for game time is fierce but Kirby for me one of the standout names out of those options and she is showing Emma Hayes just what she is capable. I just hope Kirby can stay injury free as this season is really chance for her to shine once more. 

So those players are my favourites at the moment but I am sure by the end of the season more names will be added so who knows there may be an end of season favourites post too. I can't wait until we can finally get back to going to the stadiums to watch games as I am hoping Heath is still over here playing and it is going to be great seeing these players in form and live for a change, watching every week on TV just doesn't cut it with all the talent is on offer. I don't know if it is the fact we can't go watch the games or just the quality of the players who have joined the league and how close it is in the table but I have to say this is my favourite season in a while. 

Who are your favourite FAWSL players at the moment? 


Boots That I Would Love To Own

One thing I have really got back into lately is football boots, I think it is because I have started looking at reviewing them on here (plenty coming this year) but also because I really love the designs companies are coming out with lately and it is even helping me discover some from a brand I wouldn't have tried in the past. So here are the boots I would love to pick up...

 


I have never bothered with New Balance before but for some reason I really like the New Balance Tekela V3's. To be honest I feel like they look like something Nike would make. For me though what I really like is the black boot with the orange that isn't too in your face. The bit of orange just makes them stand out without being too standout like some boots brands are bringing out. 


The Puma x BALR boots just look like a nice classic pair of boots and fit with the rest of the collaboration nicely. I love the black and silver colourway as they just look nice a simple however the details are there and noticeable without taking away from the simplicity of the boot. The boots have the netfit for the laces and a knitted upper for a supportive fit. I would love to see how the GripControl layer works on these boots too. 


Another pair of boots that I would love to own from Puma are the Ultra 1.1's especially in the black & luminous pink colourway. These ones have a woven upper with aramid &  carbon fibre which is meant to help with forward motion, this is why they are worn by the likes Lukaku, Nikita Parris & Aguero. You definitely wouldn't be missed on the pitch wearing this colourway. 



The Adidas Eternal Class 1 Predator Absolutes are a retro classic but they come with a very high price tag too at £300. The Predators are a classic boot and have been brought back in this limited edition model.  With the lacing and fold over tongue of the 2006 classic Predator absolute they are on the sole plate of the Predator Mutator +, these boots just look far too good. 



I think there is a bit of a theme with the colourways I am loving lately as this is yet another black and pink colourway. The Adidas Predators are one of those boots I always used to skip past but for some reason lately I am just getting more and more tempted by them. I have never owned a lace less pair of boots either so it would definitely be nice to have these as my first pair. They also have the ankle sock to improve stability which is something that is definitely an essential especially if you have weak ankles like me. 



For so long Nike were my go to brand for football boots and to be honest I wasn't a fan of wearing anything other than Nike but lately I haven't been impressed with some of their offerings however, after a quick scroll on the Nike website I found one pair I loved which is the Phantom GT Elite By Lucy Bronze. These custom boots just look fantastic with the gold color on the flyknit material and the tough text on the outside of the boot they are a great looking pair of boots. But the best part about these is you can customize them to say what you like, you can have them low cut or add a dynamic collar, there are plenty of customization you can make to these to really make them your own or you can just stick to the Lucy Bronze ones. 


There are definitely some fantastic boots out there at the moment but I think Adidas and Puma are producing the best ones and I could probably have done posts on just them with about 10 pairs from each brand as they are that good. 

My Favourite Pieces Of Football Memorabilia

Over the years I have added quite a bit of football memorabilia into my collection, especially since moving out I have added a fair but however, I have also managed to save some bits from whilst I was growing up too which I am very grateful for. It was rare that I ever got rid of my shirts and I would also pick up bits from attending games, online events and I would also receive things as gifts from family. As I have got older my love for the sport has only grown so I have added more and more pieces to my collection, especially since earning my own money and since moving into our own home we have added more to create a football theme around the house which is only getting better and better with every piece we add. With every addition though it seems to bring a new favourite however, there are some items that are solid favourites and these are...

Signed Bradford City Training Shirt

This was a gift from my parents at Christmas a few years ago and it is one of my most prized possessions. This training (warm up shirt) is signed by the Bradford City 18/19 squad and is printed with Darby 2 printed on the back. Stephen Darby is one of my all time favourite City players and I think he always will be so to have this shirt and know that the money went to the Darby Rimmer MND foundation which is a fantastic cause. I really wanted one of these and kept hinting to the family and honestly I don't know how they managed to keep it a surprise until Christmas day, now it is hung proudly at the top of the stairs for everyone to see. 

Lucy Bronze Shirt

It is quite funny that this is actually on the list as the Manchester City shirt was actually purchased for just £4 at our nearest Nike outlet years ago, I never intended to get it printed but a few weeks later I changed my mind and ended up getting Bronze 2 printed on the back from our local DW Sports store. A few weeks later Bradford City Women were having an event which was a Q&A with Lucy and you got to meet her too so of course we ended up with tickets and I took my shirt along to be signed. Now this is hung next to my Darby shirt at the top of the stairs and I don't plan on moving it anytime soon unless it is to get it framed. 

Keyring From Fiorentina 

When I was younger my dad worked as a steward at Bradford City so me and my mum went to plenty of games. One of my favourite moments growing up though was when we went to see Bradford City vs Fiorentina back in 2000. I was only 5/6 at this point and whilst waiting for my dad after the game we ended up meeting the Fiorentina players and they were fantastic they gave us merchandise and even food that they had left over from after the game, they were just lovely and it is an interaction I will always remember. I still have the keyring they gave us that day and even though it is an item that doesn't even say Fiorentina on it, the keyring will always remind me of that day and those interactions. It is thanks to this Fiorentina are one of my favourite teams abroad too they definitely left a lasting impression. 

Bradford City Captains Armband

This armband was actually a present for Liam but I guess seen as we live together now it is something in my collection too or at least that was the aim when buying it. I purchased this armband which is signed by James Vaughan from the Bradford City Christmas market back in 2019 and honestly I only got this due to running out of ideas of what to get Liam for Christmas that year. I am so glad I did though as Vaughan ended up going out of loan so was no longer our captain plus it is from the season that was never completed for the club so I guess you could say it is a little memory from a moment in history. I would love to add more things like this into our collection too over time as the presentation from the club in displaying this is fantastic and it looks great hung on our wall. 

Manchester United vs Benfica Programme from 1968

This was a gift from my grandparents for my 16th or 18th birthday and I love it. Unfortunately though at the moment this programme is round at my parents being kept safe until our house is fully redecorated as this is so old I don't want to risk it getting damaged after me looking after it so long, plus I don't want to store it somewhere in the house where I may end up misplacing it. They actually got me this programme from a flea market at a town local too us and it is the original from the game. For years I had this proudly on display in my room as it is a little piece of Manchester United history and as soon as the house is fully redecorated I will have this on display with the rest of our football items. 

My 1st Bradford City Shirt

This could very easily be my overall favourite from this post as it is one of the very first football items I owned and it is even signed making it even more special. I am so glad my parents kept hold of this one for me and that I still have it today as it is definitely one of those items where you just look back and think 'well I guess this is where it all began'. I think once the hallway is redecorated this might also end up being framed and hung up in the hallway/ staircase with the rest of our football items as it is that special.

So those are my favourite pieces of football memorabilia that I have got over the years, I know that I will be continuing to buy pieces for years to come and no doubt our house will be over run with pieces soon enough but this is definitely something I love as there are some great pieces out there to be purchased. What is your favourite piece of footballing memorabilia that you own?