Women’s Super League 2023-24 previews No 3: Brighton | Brighton & Hove Albion Women

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The plan

Brighton had a tumultuous 2022-23 season, finishing second from bottom. Having been seventh the year before, it was a big slip down the table – and a far cry from the club’s overall strategy, unveiled in April 2022, to break into the top four.

The team had a revolving door of managers, four in total, with Hope Powell first to depart in October. Her assistant Amy Merricks took over in the interim and Jens Scheuer was finally appointed in December – only to become the shortest-serving manager in the league’s history. His sudden departure was announced “by mutual consent” in March, after only six games.

After the appointment of Melissa Phillips in April, Brighton’s fortunes have improved. The 35-year-old oversaw two wins, enough to stave off relegation, and Phillips recently reiterated the club’s ambition to become a top-four side, while acknowledging it would take time. “We understand that you don’t go from the bottom of the mountain to the top in one step,” she said.

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Brighton made big changes over the summer, with shake-ups on and off the pitch. During an ambitious transfer window, 13 players left the club, including the first-choice goalkeeper Megan Walsh, and 10 new players were brought in – notably rising stars Katie Robinson and Elisabeth Terland in attack.

Major signings include the Wolfsburg forward Pauline Bremer, Levante midfielder Tatiana Pinto, who played for Portugal at the World Cup, and a trio of young players from the A-League champions Sydney FC: Charlie Rule, Mackenzie Hawkesby and Madison Haley. With the Seagulls conceding more goals than any other WSL side last season, there were several key defensive signings as well, including Norway’s Maria Thorisdóttir, Columbia’s Jorelyn Carabali and two new goalkeepers: Manchester United’s Sophie Baggaley and Nicky Evrard on loan from Chelsea.

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A strong pre-season featured wins against Sporting Huelva and Seville, and a draw against Tottenham. After last season’s woes, surely things can only get better.

The manager

The appointment of Melissa Phillips has given the club much-needed stability, and she brings experience from the United States, including her recent stint as an assistant coach at Angel City FC in the NWSL. Phillips has said that her “realistic ambition” for next season is “to be competitive in the mid-to-top half of the table”. She previously had success in taking the reins during a transitional period at London City Lionesses, steering the side to the top of the Championship.

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Star player

The 21-year-old forward Katie Robinson is one to watch. After missing Brighton’s 2021-22 campaign because of an ACL injury, Robinson hugely impressed last season – winning three of the club’s four end-of-season awards, including Player of the Season. The Cornwall-born youngster brings skill and speed down the wing, with a deft ability for scoring and assisting goals. She earned a first senior call-up for the Lionesses last year, and was among Sarina Wiegman’s 23-strong World Cup squad.

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High-profile summer signing

This year, Pauline Bremer dashed Arsenal’s hopes of reaching the Champions League final, with her last-minute strike for Wolfsburg in the semis. It is perhaps a surprise, then, to see her going from the final of that tournament to choosing Brighton as her next adventure but she has said that she is looking for a new challenge in a new country. It will be fascinating to see how she fares.

World Cup 2023 heartache

The defender Jorelyn Carabali impressed at this year’s World Cup, playing in all five of Columbia’s games until a heartbreaking quarter-final defeat against England. Still, her efforts didn’t go unnoticed: she is among Brighton’s key signings this summer, becoming the first Colombian player in the WSL. Her summer was marred by personal tragedy, after her brother was shot dead in a nightclub, with Carabali dedicating her move to the Seagulls to him.

Jorelyn Carabali of Colombia and Lauren Hemp of England tussle during their 2023 Women’s World Cup quarter-final.
Jorelyn Carabali will come up against Lauren Hemp again when Brighton take on Manchester City in the WSL. Photograph: Patricia Pérez Ferraro/SPP/Shutterstock

Brighton have far fewer followers than the WSL’s top clubs, but are active across their social media channels. The club’s TikTok and YouTube channels are shared with the men’s side, but the women’s team also has dedicated accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Some of Brighton’s big summer signings may also boost their visibility online – for example, Carabali has more than four times (141,000) the following of Brighton on Instagram.

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