The Women’s Championship is a league which provides academy players and youngsters the opportunity to develop and to put themselves in the eyes of England’s top clubs. The likes of Beth England, Fran Kirby, Beth Mead, Millie Bright, Kate Longhurst, Steph Houghton and more have all come through the second tier, showing the league’s prowess in developing players over the last two decades.
However, the Championship as a league is probably the most competitive it has ever been, and is almost definitely the best second tier in women’s football. There’s a variety of clubs at this level. There’s big spending teams such as Southampton and Crystal Palace; historic teams in women’s football such as Birmingham City, Charlton and Sunderland; and those who are more well known than the men’s side such as London City Lionesses, Coventry United and Lewes.
But despite the variety of teams in the league, they all are competing for the same thing. The coveted first place which brings you to the promise land, the promotion spot which takes you to the big time, that Championship title which takes you to the WSL. But to get to that highly competitive place, then you’ll need the players to get you there. So, who has been starring in the Championship?
TOP SCORER: SHANIA HAYLES
Shania Hayles is a name some may have heard before, but it feels like she might start kicking into her best in the next few years. Shania is 23-years-old, and the team she plays for in Bristol City are the favorites to get promoted, as they’re only in second behind London City Lionesses on goal difference and with a game in hand.
Hayles previously played for both Birmingham City and Aston Villa in the WSL, and after not having the prolific nature required by an ambitious Villa side (a process I just wrote about, and you can read here), she departed, and took a step back to the Championship. She currently has 8 goals and 1 assist in 13 games and has been a key member of Bristol City’s success, especially in Abi Harrision’s absence.
DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: EMILY SCARR
Despite not being at one of the bigger clubs in the Championship, 23-year-old Emily Scarr has starred for Sunderland, who are currently sitting in tenth. She has scored 7 goals and also claimed an assist during her 14 games, and has saved Sunderland from being in more trouble than they are.
Scarr is a relatively unknown player, with not much information about her online. Emily also played for Sunderland last year, but had less experiences due to still being relatively young. However, whether she maintains this level at Sunderland or moves to a bigger Championship or potentially WSL club, she may be heard about more in the coming months and years.
EXPERIENCE OVER THE BENCH: JAMIE-LEE NAPIER
Jamie-Lee Napier is a name which will ring out to most Scottish fans as well as a few of those in England. Napier broke onto the scene as an 18-year-old, and by the time she left Hibernian, she scored 22 goals in 33 games as a winger. The youngest made the decision to join Chelsea, a club which despite being one of the best in England, also have lots of players, so opportunities were hard to come by, specifically in the WSL.
Napier made 2 league appearances for Chelsea during her two seasons (18/19 and 21/22), and was loaned out to Birmingham City during the seasons between them. She didn’t have the best season, but did start to shift towards a wing-back position as the season went on.
After leaving Chelsea this season, Napier seems to have played a left mid role in a 3-4-3, and despite not being great going forward, she’s developing important skills in a team which is in pole position to win the league and get into the WSL. Regardless, Jamie-Lee Napier has always been a talent and has always been one to watch.