Her Football Hub’s Top 10 FA Women’s Championship players of all time

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Last time out at Her Football Hub, we looked at the first part of our top 10 FA Women’s Championship players of all time. Now we get to the good part of revealing the top five in the list…

This top five is littered with world-class talent both past and present. It’s further proof, if required, that the Championship is a great place for players to learn their trade and mould themselves into top players.

5. Millie Bright

The first defender on the list and who would be more fitting than the central midfielder turned centre back, Millie Bright.

Yet another fine example of how the Championship can mould a player’s career. Bright was a raw, powerful and talented player at Doncaster Belles, and those hard-fought games on less than great pitches turned her into the defender she is today.

As a rock in the middle of the pitch during her Championship days, she netted seven times while screening the back four expertly. Bright’s ability to come forward with the ball and distribute it effectively was built in the Championship.

Not many players find a way past Bright in the current day. The fact she only required the one season in the Championship before Chelsea took a plunge on her shows how she was evidently a step above the rest.

4. Beth Hepple

Hepple is simply a walking legend in the FA Women’s Championship. After driving Durham to an incredible second-place finish this season – despite the club still being part-time – she could be a huge beneficiary from more money in the Championship if Durham can soon turn fully professional.

On a personal note, Hepple is arguably the most successful player in the Championship’s history. The midfielder has made 170 appearances for the Wildcats, with 132 coming in the league – the most out of any player.

Hepple is the conductor for Durham. She dictates play by working the ball from front to back and popping up at the right time more often than not. The 24-year-old’s goal-scoring record also proves this as she’s netted 56 times in the league. Her stats simply don’t do her justice.

She is simply, Ms Durham. Having appeared in every single season for the Wildcats since the Championship was formed, it’s a testament to her legacy at such a young age. In eight seasons, she’s only failed to hit double figures three times and considering her age, that is some feat.

Hepple is a leader on the pitch who demands as much from her teammates as she does from herself. Her attitude puts her head and shoulders above most players in the league. Unfortunately for Durham, it appears only a matter of time before she is tempted by a move to the WSL, but until then, she is flying the flag high and proud for the North East.

3. Sue Smith

No stats, awards or trophies can show how good Sue Smith was as a footballer and also as a pioneer for women’s football. Quite simply, Smith was a magician on the pitch and someone who put a smile on the faces of thousands who got the pleasure to watch her.

Smith finished as the third top scorer with 11 goals in both the 2014/15 and 2015/16 season, with the latter campaign seeing her win the league title with Doncaster Belles. 

Smith was a player capable of both the brilliant and unexpected. She was a trailblazer in many ways – setting the bar so high for the players in today’s game to follow.

Smith only played two seasons in the Championship but her influence and lasting impact on the league is simply undisputed. If it wasn’t for players like Smith, we wouldn’t be watching the high standard of football we have in the Championship today. She was a role model, idol and world-class footballer all in one. Her place on this list is not up for debate.

2. Beth Mead

Someone who came through the ranks towards the end of the North East’s golden era of producing footballers. Beth Mead was an obvious talent and way too good for the Championship as she made her Sunderland debut at 16.

As a winger/striker/No.10, Mead can do it all and then some. Having made a name for herself at Sunderland with 77 goals in 78 appearances, she was clearly destined for a bright future. Disappointingly for Championship viewers, she did only spend the single season in the Championship, but what a season it was.

Mead managed 13 goals in 15 appearances as Sunderland stormed to the inaugural Championship league title. Her nimble footwork and raw shot power was something to behold. That season, she finished runner up in the goal scoring table, only behind a certain Fran Kirby.

At just 19-years-old, Mead was the driving force behind Sunderland’s rise to the near summit of football, so to have that amount of pressure on a teenager was an early sign of her bright future.

Since Mead’s departure in 2017, Sunderland have failed to recover and no player has come close to her ability. Her natural ability at 19 was clear for everyone to see and acknowledge she could never play in the Championship again. 

Mead was capable of being two or three steps ahead of defenders in terms of both her movement and skill on the ball. She would often draw defenders too tight to her, before spinning around the corner and slotting home. Her footballing intelligence was some of the best of any teenager the league has ever seen.

1. Fran Kirby

We’ve finally made it to number one and there was really no one else it could’ve been but super Fran Kirby. She was amazing for Reading in the Championship and is surely in contention for this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Kirby was in a league of her own during the inaugural FA Women’s Championship season in 2014. She netted a mesmerising 24 goals in 18 games. Much like Mead, she was a youngster carrying the expectations of a huge football club in Reading, and Kirby was just a 20-year-old fresh onto the scene.

Her song from the Chelsea fans sums her ability up. She was simply ‘super’ for Reading in the two Championship seasons she had for the Royals. Kirby is the league’s sixth all-time top scorer with 35 goals during her time in the Championship.

During the 2015 season, Kirby saw the goals more shared out across the team but her influence was even more important as they won the league title. Kirby scored 11 of Reading’s 61 goals in 18 league matches. 

The forward’s ability to play anywhere across the front line endeared her to the Reading fans and her teammates as she was a totally unselfish player, with a ruthless edge to her game. The England international was able to create chances out of nothing for both herself and her team. 

However, Kirby really came alive when the ball was in the final third. It was almost like she had a sixth sense of where the ball would drop to in the box and where defenders would be. 

Kirby is now one of the best players in the world and will go down as a Championship, WSL and England legend. For now, however, we must enjoy her amazing ability and talent.

So, that’s Her Football Hub’s top 10 FA Women’s Championship players of all time. Some great ex-players who set the way for the standard of football we have now. There were some world-class talents who are playing at the top level and topped off with some current players still doing the business in England’s second division.

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