It was very much a case of ‘justice at last’ for Southampton FC Women, after their long-awaited promotion to Tier 3 was confirmed last month. A feat that was made all the sweeter for two members of the squad following the end of season awards.
Sitting on a cliff-top park bench overlooking the disappointedly overcast Sandbanks Peninsula was goalkeeper Kayla Rendell and forward Ella Pusey.
Whilst the weather had let the side down this time around, the same couldn’t be said for the two Saints players in attendance following their performances over the last twelve, COVID-hit, months.
The free scoring Pusey scored 13 goals in 12 games, becoming the side’s record goal scorer on her way to being awarded Virgin Media’s fan’s player of the season.
“I’ve loved being in front of goal this season,” beamed the 21-year-old, “but I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have the team around me, creating the chances for me, working hard for me. It’s such a good atmosphere.”
Ella PuseyI'm delighted that the fans have voted for me. It really means a lot.
Southampton FC Women's forward
“It’s nice to get some personal accolades at the end of the season but really I couldn’t have done it without the girls, the manager, the staff.
“They’ve backed me all the way and helped me to improve even without the pitch time this season with lockdown.”
That notion was backed by Rendell, who was similarly rewarded for a solid season between the sticks with the player’s player of the season award.
“I’m grateful that my teammates have voted for me this season” said Rendell, the intruding rain overhead not dampening the end-of-season positivity.
“The support we’ve received this season from all the coaches and all the staff members, we couldn’t have done it without everyone else.
“It’s been a bit up and down with COVID and the lockdowns but I think the last few months we’ve really progressed and shown that we can compete at the top levels.”
Harking back to the team spirit which continued to be eluded to, Pusey was full of praise for her fellow BH resident.
“She’s shown her qualities throughout the season and in the FA Cup she really proved to everyone that she has the qualities to be a top, top keeper.
“That penalty save [against Lewes FC in the FA Cup] helped us so much and gave us such a confidence boost. Having her at the back gives the whole team so much more confidence.
And confidence is certainly what the squad will have going into the next campaign, having had the news of their promotion confirmed last month.
“We had to wait for the news,” said Pusey. “We had a Zoom call and everyone was very anxious and apprehensive about it. But delighted to actually get it confirmed.
“It’s a bit of relief off of our shoulders,” echoed Rendell, “to know we can go into a higher league and play some competitive football.”
It’s another step on the ladder for the ambitious Southampton FC Women, one of which they are looking forward to more every day.