Young talents, wrong socks and ‘Bunny’: Highlights of most entertaining WSL season yet

Young talents, wrong socks and 'Bunny': Highlights of most entertaining WSL season yet

The engrossing title race has drawn to a close and it is fair to say this has been the most unpredictable and entertaining Women’s Super League campaign to date.

It has also been the most-watched season in WSL history, with a cumulative attendance of well over a million across the season and a 22 per cent increase in the number of viewers on the BBC. With the top prize now handed out, here are Telegraph Sport’s end-of-season awards.

Goal of the Season

Honourable mentions must go to Aston Villa defender Danielle Turner for her clever, flicked volley at Manchester City in December, Arsenal’s Cloe Lacasse for her late leveller into the top corner at Manchester United in October and Lauren James for her instinctive left-footed strike at Brighton in January. The runner-up prize goes to Ella Toone for her long-range scorcher at Leicester City in April, but there can only be one winner.

Jamaica striker Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw, who netted 21 goals in 18 league appearances this season, fired in a rocket for Manchester City away at Liverpool in April.

The sheer power on her strike, despite her having very little back-lift, and the way she set herself up by flicking the ball past a helpless Gemma Bonner make this the standout goal of the campaign.

Game of the Season

Liverpool’s gripping 4-3 victory over Chelsea at Prenton Park prompted Emma Hayes to – prematurely – say that the title was “not to be” for the defending champions. Hayes’s side took the lead but Liverpool roared back to take the lead on three separate occasions in a barnstorming second half. Neutrals have been craving more competitiveness in the WSL and matches like this offer exactly the drama the division needs to elevate it to the next level.

Player of the Season

Khadija Shaw picked up the Football Writers’ Association’s Women’s Footballer of the Year award and Lauren James deserves to win individual honours this term, but our winner is Yui Hasegawa.

The Manchester City midfielder, who has such great balance, has gone about her business with little fuss in the holding role and has been majestic in possession. In terms of technical ability with the ball at her feet, she is amongst the very best in the world.

Young Player of the Season

Shout-outs must go to Manchester City’s Khiara Keating, Tottenham’s Grace Clinton and Chelsea’s Aggie Beever-Jones but, if we apply the same eligibility rules for “young player” as the Professional Players’ Association and include everybody who was aged 21 or younger on July 1, 2023, this honour has to go to Lauren James. At her best, she is the most entertaining player to watch in the league and no defender can stop her.

Most Under-rated Player

Manchester City defender Laia Aleixandri is a magnificent footballer who somewhat goes under the radar. She has played an enormous part in her club’s strong season at the back.

Young talents, wrong socks and 'Bunny': Highlights of most entertaining WSL season yet
Laia Aleixandri has been one of Man City's key players this season - Getty Images /Matt McNulty

Pundit of the Season

The BBC and Sky Sports’ television coverage of the WSL has been getting better year on year, and there are a growing number of excellent pundits on the radio too. One person who has stood out above the rest this season is Izzy Christiansen.

The former England, Manchester City and Everton midfielder’s articulate insight, tactical assessments and intelligent analysis have provided a boost to both Sky’s live TV games and BBC Radio 5 Live’s coverage. Since hanging up her boots last summer, it has been clear she is a natural broadcaster.

Most Bizarre Moment

This could easily be the Emma Hayes press conference where she read out a Robert Frost poem, or frankly several of Hayes’s media interviews in recent weeks. However, the standalone winner is the night when Arsenal turned up at Stamford Bridge with the wrong socks and kick-off was delayed for half an hour while new ones were purchased from the Chelsea shop.

Young talents, wrong socks and 'Bunny': Highlights of most entertaining WSL season yet
Arsenal players were forced to wear black and blue socks after an apparel mistake - Getty Images/Alex Burstow

Nicest Moment

The WSL’s all-time leading goalscorer, Vivianne Miedema, scoring for the first time since returning from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that saw her miss last summer’s World Cup.

The Netherlands forward, who is leaving the club, launched a swerving effort into the net from long range, right in front of her team’s travelling fans away at Liverpool, and the reaction from her team-mates illustrated how much she means to them all.

Miss of the Season

Apologies to Rachel Williams for mentioning this, but how did the Manchester United striker not score late on in their away draw at West Ham United when she was presented with an open goal? It was astonishing.

Young talents, wrong socks and 'Bunny': Highlights of most entertaining WSL season yet
Rachel Williams was guilty of one of the misses of the season - Getty Images/Alex Davidson

Signing of the Season

Tottenham’s loan signing of Grace Clinton from Manchester United and Chelsea’s free signing of Canada defender Ashley Lawrence from Paris St-Germain (what a bargain) have proven to be astute pieces of business, while Alessia Russo’s high-profile switch to Arsenal last summer has been a great move for her.

The winner, though, is Liverpool’s addition of Austria midfielder Marie Hobinger from FC Zurich, who has displayed a supreme ability at delivering set-pieces and can hit them well from range. Hobinger had five goals and five assists from midfield going into the final day – an impressive return in her first year in England.

Manager of the Year

Matt Beard merits this honour more than anybody else as Liverpool, on a relatively modest budget, have disrupted the top four. Beard has worked wonders with the Merseyside team and has repeatedly shown smart tactical nous that has thwarted the top teams.