More arrivals, departures and Champions League preparation. The Arsenal Ladies camp has seen a few more comings and goings as Shelley Kerr juggles strengthening her squad for the new WSL season, while also preparing for the upcoming Champions League matches (We play Birmingham City Ladies on March 22/23 and March 29/30).
Ciara Grant and Yvonne Tracy are the two departures. The Irish duo has come to the end of their contracts and leaves the Arsenal Ladies after 30 years at the club between them. Ciara, who recently called it quits with her 17 year old international career (a total of 105 appearances), was the first player to reach a century of caps for the Republic of Ireland. She signed for Arsenal in 1998 and has been a part of 11 League titles, 9 FA Cups, 9 League Cups and 1 UEFA Cup.
Yvonne, on the other hand, still features prominently for her national side and made her Arsenal debut in the 2000-2001 season where she immediately helped the Gunners to a treble. She played a key part in their unprecedented 2006-2007 campaign, among other achievements.
“I would like to thank both Ciara and Yvonne for their fantastic contribution to the Club … They’ve been central to the success the Ladies have had over the last 15 years. As well as being excellent players, they’ve been great to work with. On behalf of everyone at the Club, I’d like to wish them well for the future.” (Vic Akers)
Even as we say goodbye to them, we have a new player to welcome. Shelley Kerr, a fellow Scot, has a large pool of talent to select from, from her time with the national side. Christie Murray, a 23 year old Scottish international, has signed on from Glasgow Rovers and bolsters our attack, as well as providing us with another option in midfield.
Murray is a versatile, creative player who played and impressed against Arsenal in the Champions League Round of 16 tie last November. She has represented the country at all levels, working closely with Kerr in the process, and originally came through the Scottish FA’s National Performance Centre. The young player is a very exciting prospect, one to definitely watch out for as the Arsenal Ladies aim to regain the title they lost to Liverpool in the last WSL season.
“Christie’s a fantastic player, and we’re delighted she’s agreed to join us. She’s comfortable on the ball, with a great range of passing, she never stops running and working for the team. She has a great attitude, and she’ll be a real asset to the squad.” (Vic Akers)
To put the icing on the cake, Kelly Smith has signed a new contract that sees her continue the very important role of player-coach. The Arsenal Ladies captain follows Rachel Yankey, Alex Scott, Emma Byrne, Jordan Nobbs and Danielle Carter in committing her future to the Club this pre-season. In August 2013, Kelly was appointed as new manager Shelley Kerr’s assistant and has since then done a wonderful job of this new challenge that only adds to her responsibilities as Club captain and leader. The 35 year old is also England’s all-time leading goal scorer and looks to continue to excel in her dual role.
“I’m delighted to have agreed a new contract with Arsenal. Coaching has provided a fresh and exciting challenge for me, and I’m really enjoying combining my new role with my responsibilities on the pitch.”
“Kelly has been an exceptional player for us over the years and has now become an exceptional coach too. Her experience, her passion and her knowledge of the game are all having a really positive impact on the rest of the squad, and helping with the development of the younger girls in particular.” (Vic Akers)
That’s all I have for you today, Gooners. Keep the faith and stay sane in this very hectic and stressful month for the men’s team! Readers of Gunners Fair do have a few upcoming guest posts to look forward to, but more on that closer to the time.
Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.