WINGER Melissa Lawley believes Birmingham City Ladies’ flirt with relegation last season will make them a stronger outfit this time around in the Women’s Super League.
A disappointing 2015 campaign saw Dave Parker’s side come dangerously close to relegation after winning just three league games all season.
Several injuries to key players including England aces Jade Moore and Karen Carney took their toll on the Blues but two important away wins late in the season against Bristol Academy and Notts County ensured their top flight status.
And Lawley is confident Birmingham can learn from their experiences last season and improve on their final league position.
The 21-year-old told the Observer: “I think last year will only make us stronger and better.
“We know how to go about dealing with the pressures of being in a situation we’ve never been in before – a relegation battle.
“There’s been a lot of movement in the league and the WSL is getting harder and harder, but I can’t wait to start and compete when the new season arrives.
“I’m really looking forward to the new season. There is a lot of optimism heading into it because there has been a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes with new staff members and infrastructure.”
Blues will have to cope without the services of England star Carney this season after she moved to WSL rivals Chelsea over the winter break.
But they have been boosted in recent weeks by the news that several first team players, including Lawley herself, have committed their future to the club.
Hot prospects and academy duo Sophie Baggaley and Chloe Peplow have also signed new deals and Lawley is pleased to see more players successfully come through the club’s youth system.
“She (Carney) will be missed be everyone in the club and especially me as a player because she was someone I looked up to both on and off the pitch.
“She’s a true legend! Now I think it’s up to us to make sure she isn’t missed and that will be a very good challenge.
“Those two (Baggeley and Peplow) and also Charlie Wellings are very talented young players who I think, if they put their mind to it, will go very far.
“They are definitely in the right place at Blues as youngsters, especially for development, as the staff believe in them and give them the chance that they need to show their full potential.
“For a club like us that doesn’t have the resources like all the bigger clubs in the league, we’ve been told by the management team that producing and developing our own players has to be at the forefront of the club.”
Last season proved to be a positive one on a personal level for Lawley with the skilful winger being one of the stand out performers which was recognised at the end of season awards.
Lawley, who made 21 appearances in both league and cup, won the coveted Fans’ Player of the Year award and she also took home the Supporters Club Player of the Season accolade too.
And she is confident of producing the goods again this year in the Birmingham shirt.
She added: “It was pleasing to get those awards. It is hard to play well when we were having the season that we had.
“But I’ve shown to myself that I can perform with that type of pressure on my mind
“I need to start adding more assists and goals into my performances and I also feel I need to become a more consistent player too.
“Before pre-season when you see all the movement that has been happening and we haven’t seen any players coming into our club I was concerned.
“But after going back into pre-season training with the squad I fully believe in the team and it will be a great season.”