With the effort made to build the women’s game in the UK over the last few years, I thought it would be interesting to take a nostalgic look back at the state of things a decade ago. Here we look at the FA Women’s Premier League National Division as it stood ten years ago this week.
Back in the 2006/07 season, the WPL was the pinnacle of the women’s game in England. The nation’s top eleven teams, along with Welsh side Cardiff City, battled it out in the National Division for the league crown, while below that were the two regional divisions (Northern and Southern).
On the 5th of December 2006, exactly ten years ago, Bristol Academy (now called Bristol City) were top of the National Division with seven wins from their first ten games. All but six of their 29 goals scored had come from Kerry Bartlett, Stef Curtis and Justine Lorton, who were all in the division’s top ten goalscorers at this point.
Academy, who had changed their name from Bristol Rovers a year earlier, appeared to merely be keeping the place warm for Arsenal however. The Gunners were in fifth place, three points behind Bristol, with four games in hand. Their six games played had resulted in six wins, 42 goals scored and one goal conceded, so it was clear they were going to be the favourites for the title.
Sitting between Bristol Academy and Arsenal were Leeds, Charlton and Everton, all on 19 points, while down at the foot of the table the relegation spots were filled by Sunderland and Fulham.
The Fulham team had dominated women’s football in England for a brief period in the early 2000s as the WPL’s first fully-professional club, but those days were no more. All of their big name players were gone and the current team were struggling to cope at the top level. By the end of the season Fulham FC had decided to end their involvement in women’s football altogether.
WPL results for 3 December 2006
- Cardiff City 1-1 Birmingham City
- Everton a-a Doncaster Rovers Belles (match abandoned after 15 minutes)
- Leeds United 2-1 Fulham
- Sunderland 1-2 Blackburn Rovers
Everton’s game against Doncaster was abandoned with Everton leading 1-0 due to fear of high winds causing structural damage to Marine FC’s stadium.
Arsenal’s superb early season form was to continue throughout the entire campaign. They dominated the season, winning every single one of their 22 league matches and scoring 119 goals in the process. Everton finished 14 points back in a distant second place, and along with Arsenal qualified for the UEFA Women’s Cup. Charlton went on to finish third and early-season pace-setters Bristol Academy were fourth.
Sunderland and Fulham were still in the bottom two at the end of the season, and so were relegated to the Nothern and Southern divisions respectively.
Top goalscorer in the division for the 2006/07 season was Lianne Sanderson, whose final tally of 29 was more than the entire Sunderland and Fulham teams combined. Eniola Aluko and Kelly Smith were tied for second place with 19 goals.