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It's almost England time (again), hooooray. On Tuesday morning, Sarina Wiegman surprised no one by naming a squad that is pretty much unchanged for European Championship qualifiers against Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

The bad news is that Millie Bright remains out while she "does responsible things" (Sarina says) about her ongoing knee issue, but the good news is that Leah Williamson is back with another chance to make her first appearance in an England shirt since last April.

Maya Le Tissier is the only one who has been dropped to make way for.... her Manchester United teammate Millie Turner (awkward), who got her first call-up when Leah Williamson dropped out of the February internationals with injury.

'Cuz it's Tuesday, and to protect ourselves against the possibility that Williamson might just drop out of the squad with some frightening twinge again, let's just relive the reaction of Turner and her teammates to her first appearance for her country. It's dead sweet.

Have a great week!

Yes Jess

Today, I’m reliving this boss moment from England’s World Cup final against Spain:
You may painfully remember that the Lionesses were already 1-0 down when Jess Carter threw herself in the way of Jenni Hermoso's shot. She took her cue from Mary Earps, who had just stopped Hermoso’s penalty. Moments later, the fourth official announced that England had thirteen whole minutes of injury time to level the score. It was crunch time and Carter was ready to crunch.

I have never seen the appeal of defending. I quite like it if I get drafted into defence in training, but the idea of people relying on me to be in the right place and fulfil my role to each perfect detail come matchday doesn’t sit nice. I much prefer making a nuisance of myself up front, where unscripted movements are celebrated, and teammates are ready and happy to react.

However, watching Jess Carter at the World Cup made me think ‘wow, that looks fun’. She had quite a bit to do in the final, so watching her put her body on the line over and over again was the closest thing to a consolation prize I could imagine. Blocking the shot is cool, but the care with which Carter tracks Hermoso's run in the lead-up is even cooler. Yes Jess.
On Thursday, Carter was named alongside Manchester United attacker Nikita Parris among the most influential black people in British football.

Published annually since 2008, the Football Black List celebrates the excellence of black people working in all areas of the sport, from players and managers to off-pitch roles in media, commercial and administration.

Huddersfield Town midfielder Caz Fields took home the LGBTQ+ award for raising awareness for gender diversity within football by sharing their journey as a non-binary player with 80,000 TikTok followers, while former England manager Hope Powell was recognised for her work as women’s technical director at Birmingham City.

Kerry Davis, the first black woman to play for England, was pleased to received some long-overdue recognition, as Football Black List founder Leon Mann insisted that the “pioneer”, who has over eighty international caps, be more visible to the next generation of fans.

Faced with more barriers than her white teammates, discrimination did not prevent Davis from scoring 44 goals for England, or playing abroad with Napoli and Lazio.

"In football [I encountered] casual racism more so, with people's throwaway remarks,” Davis said. “I ignored it. I wanted to play football, it was a passion.

"As you get older, you have more courage and if somebody says something in front of you then maybe [you can] explain to them why the language they're using is disrespectful."

Bad weekend to be a Skinner

Uh oh! Women’s football is sliding slowly toward the dark side of big-money sport.

I miss the good old days! Of intimate, grassroots-esque atmospheres where players were on first-name terms with fans, and no two teams in the top division were ever sufficiently evenly-matched for tight decisions to be scrutinised! Now, we’ve got the 50,000+ seater Etihad and zero points between first and second place. Suddenly the margins are tiny, and the pile of money riding on them is a lot bigger than it used to be.

On Saturday, Manchester United boss Marc Skinner’s head was on top of those piles. While his dismissal is surely a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’, it's not fair that a linesperson’s lapse of attention could bring forward his demise. We, the fans, deserve to see Skinner's United career crumble by his own design!!

In what Skinner describes as a “cut and dry” error, City’s first goal in the Manchester derby stood even though Bunny Shaw clearly returned from an offside position to receive the ball in the build-up. And this wasn’t like a little offside — we’re talking a lot offside.
Yeah Marc, but what about the other two goals that City scored? The first goal “swings the whole game,” Skinner argued, and it’s hard to disagree. Jess Park’s 37th-minute opener, her first league goal in Sky Blue, gave City a gust of momentum that helped Park score her second league goal in Sky Blue just eight minutes later.

Equally, you could argue that none of Skinner's players have the mental strength to withstand the stresses and the strains of going a goal down.... It’s a tricky one — Man Utd were probably going to lose the game anyway, but they deserved to spend a bit more time operating under the illusion that they weren’t. That’s justice.

Similarly, West Ham have only avoided defeat in a third of their Women’s Super League games so far this season, so it was unlikely to happen against dominant Chelsea on Sunday.

Aggie Beever-Jones and Lauren James combined in a truly stunning way to put the Blues ahead just two minutes in at the Chigwell Construction Stadium — but the Irons surprised us all by levelling through Honoka Hayashi twelve minutes later.

The assistant referee flagged offside and the goal was disallowed but, hang on — she was not offside at all and West Ham were trailing when they shouldn’t have been. The flag meant nothing to Erin Cuthbert 74 minutes later as she rifled in a second to seal the win for Chelsea but, as in the Manchester derby, the whole game would have been played out differently had the correct decision been made.
In an unprecedented moment of tact and diplomacy the previous day, Marc Skinner had politely pointed out that limited resources are probably preventing VAR being implemented across the Women’s Super League, with many stadia unfit to properly accommodate the Sky Sports cameras, let alone the kind of precision technology intended to ‘out-accurate’ human eyes.

West Ham manager Rehanne Skinner, however, was feeling less charitable, hurting, having been here before. Last season, she was sacked as manager of Spurs after their ninth successive league defeat at relegation rivals Liverpool. The next day, West Ham received an apology as Missy Bo Kearns’ winning goal should not have stood since one of her teammates was offside, blocking the Spurs’ keeper’s view, as she struck it.

It’s no surprise then, that Rehanne Skinner held nothing back after Hayashi’s equaliser was unjustly chalked off: “I’m getting a bit sick of it, to be honest. The bottom line is, if that's how I operated in my job, I wouldn't be in my job.”


Schadenfreude of the Day

Barcelona and Real Madrid went head to head in el clásico femenino at the weekend. The fixture is always hyped up due to the historic feud between their male counterparts, but across eleven wins since their first encounter in 2019, Barça are thumping their rivals 49 - 6 on aggregate. Leagues apart in quality, yet forced to face each other in the league twice a season.

One of the players contributing to that giant margin at the moment is Norwegian winger Caroline Graham Hansen, who it seems is unable to stop balling. So far this season, she’s scored seventeen goals and made eighteen assists in eighteen appearances.

Olga Carmona thought she might be able to stop her, but Olga was twice the hapless victim as Graham Hansen added to her tally on Sunday.

And as someone who felt personally victimised by Olga Carmona’s winning goal at Stadium Australia last August, I couldn’t help enjoying this moment of tragedy as Caroline Graham Hansen assisted Aitana Bonmatí for the opener.

More at The Square Ball

A photograph of Sarah Danby walking out of the tunnel for Leeds United Women with two mascots either side of her

The making of fans for life

by Flora Snelson

Leeds are the only team in Division One North with no dedicated social media account and haven't played at Elland Road since 2022. How do they expect to attract new fans?
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