Reading’s Emma Mitchell is used to playing on some of the biggest stadiums of all, and getting to play week in, week out at the Madejski is one of the highlights of her season so far. What she wants to know is why more clubs aren’t following suit and opening up their stadium to their women’s teams.
“Why not? The stadiums are sitting empty anyway,” the left-back said in a local newspaper, “if you are part of that club, then just let them play in the stadium.”
The inconsistency of the facilities available to teams competing in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League continues to be a matter of contention between teams and even fans, with Everton’s Walton Hall Park coming in for particular criticism.
It also means teams have to adapt their style of play from week to week because of the varying quality of the pitches, but Mitchell isn’t too bothered about that, “it’s the same for both teams.” What Mitchell does wish for is the return of fans.
“I just wish we had fans in,” she said, “health is most important right now, but when that time comes for supporters to be allowed to attend games, it will be great.”
Mitchell was one of the star players as Reading took a point from giants Arsenal last weekend (1-1). It was particularly sweet for the Scotland international to perform so well against her old club.
“I think it’s just trying to find some consistency now.
“We just need to find that consistency and build on the performances. I think that’s really where we’ve got to focus now and for the rest of the season.”
The week before the Arsenal’s game, Reading had lost 5-0 against Chelsea. Mitchell thought the loss might have had an impact on the team’s preparation.
“I don’t think we prepared the same way as we usually do week in week,” she said, “We went a bit back to basics, almost, when it came to preparation against Arsenal and that really showed in our performance. Everybody was buzzing.”
“Every single player takes a while to adapt to whatever that system, formation, just environment, to get especially when you’ve been at a team for such a long time,” she continued saying, “Reading have this way of playing that you really need to buy in to for it to be successful.”
She says she has learnt a lot from playing alongside another of her new team-mates, Wales star Jess Fishlock, who came back to England from the USA while the NWSL season was in abeyance.
“Jess is a class player, she’s played and won things all over the world,” she said, “when she goes back to America, whenever it is, that will be a massive void that needs to be filled.”
Mitchell is enjoying getting regular first-team football, one of the reasons she opted to leave Meadow Park, and even in the middle of a pandemic she is looking for the positives.
“My life is pretty normal, which is good,” she said, “the days that I’m not training I’d probably do the same, lie on the couch and maybe do some housework!”
At last, amidst headlines of players travelling overseas during the pandemic, Mitchell has been staying at home as she and her fiancé are in the midst of moving house and planning their wedding, which they are still hopeful will happen in the summer.
“I think it’s really important that we’re quite responsible in the situation we are in because we are still getting to play football,” she concluded.