There is nothing quite like a club playing in the top flight for the first time in their history. The excitement. The nerves. It is a feeling that is simply unmatched. It’s a situation that Leicester City will find themselves in come September 4th when they take on Aston Villa in their first-ever match in the Football Association Women’s Super League.
Leicester City was founded in 2004, but they weren’t acquired by King Power, the Thai travel retail group that owns the men’s team, until August 2020. A season later, the Foxes clinched the FA Women’s Championship and earned their first-ever promotion to the WSL, the highest league of women’s football in England which features 12 teams.
“I will never forget where we started,” said Jonathan Morgan, who has managed the club for the past seven years. In an interview with the BBC, he recalls how the players used tin sheds as dressing rooms and how he had to drive a former goalkeeper, who worked night shifts in a prison, at 4 A.M., so that she would get better sleep on game days.
It’s safe to say the team has come a long way after the much-needed investment.
The tin sheds are long gone, as the team now trains at the Belvoir Drive Training Ground, which belonged to the men’s team until December 2020. The state-of-the-art facilities, fit for a professional team, are not the only thing investment brought.
Leicester City, who finished sixth the season prior to their promotion, brought in a multitude of signings that elevated them, including players like Sophie Barker, an experienced midfielder, whose versatility allows her to slot into defence when need be; Sophie Howard, a central defender who brought a lot of stability at the back; and Natasha Flint, the club’s top scorer who netted 17 times in 20 league matches. One of the most impressive things about this team was how much they worked tactically, as a unit. Leicester didn’t necessarily have a ‘star player; these three, and several others, were all imperative in winning the Championship.
With promotion, the club added more names to their squad, such as former Manchester United duo Jessica Sigsworth and Abbie McManus. Sigsworth brings in a lot of experience, having played with United in their first season after promotion. She of course also brings in the goals, having left United as their third-highest goalscorer. On the other end of the pitch, McManus will provide defensive stability. During her time at Manchester City, she won a league title, two FA Cups, and three Continental Cups. She moved to United in 2019, where she was key in United’s defensive set-up and shape.
The club’s target of reaching the WSL has been reached. But they still have big ambitions. Sustainability is vital for the Foxes. So many promoted clubs suffer the cycle of getting relegated within a season or two.
“We want to finish mid-table, then be in the Champions League, then win the WSL. We are a progressive club, and nothing is off the table for us,” said Jade Morgan, the club’s general manager, who also happens to be Jonathan’s sister. Morgan has held the role since 2016. She admitted to The Telegraph that growing up, she wasn’t the “muddy knees, footballing type”, leaving that to her brother, and her younger sister, Holly Morgan, who was a defender for the club for 17 years, before retiring this summer and taking up a first-team coaching role. In past years, she has worked to ensure that the team has all the tools to be successful, whether it be when it was at the amateur level, which was where Leicester were when Morgan first started the role, or at the professional level, which they are now.
“I wanted to make football a bit more corporate-led. To implement strategy and longer roadmaps and it is not just about the short-term goals. The fine margins on the field get us that next win. But it’s also the fine margins, and what you’re doing off the field that is equally important. It all goes hand in hand”
The family ties don’t stop there. With Morgan siblings’ father, Rohan Morgan, acting as the club chairman, it’s easy to see why the promotion meant so much to them; the four Morgans have all dedicated their professional careers to establishing Leicester City into what it is today.
And the hard work won’t stop there. Just because they dominated the Championship last season doesn’t mean that Leicester City will find the FA WSL smooth sailing. In fact, they face defending champions Chelsea and runner-ups Manchester City back to back within the first month of the season, which will be the ultimate test when it comes to playstyle, squad depth, and mentality. But in the short time that it has been backed, this team has shown new heights in terms of what it can accomplish, and this family dynasty is ready for whatever the top-flight throws their way.