John Salomon's reign as Watford Ladies manager has been a success. During his time in charge he has transformed the Golden Girls’ fortunes but he and the club face a new challenge this season – the FA Women’s Super League.
Salomon took charge of the Hornets in October 2011. Watford have since gone from relegation battlers to promotion contenders. They finished second in the Women’s Premier League last season and lost just two league matches.
But the Women’s Super League is an unknown for the club. There’s a new two-tier league structure and Watford Ladies start out in the second division.
After their title challenge last year there’s expectation on the Hornets to vie for the title and the single promotion spot.
Salomon believes his side are capable of fighting for promotion to WSL 1 but says “the game has changed”.
“Teams have come in with different ideas and have brought different things to their game on and off the pitch,” he explained.
“So perhaps the culture of the league will change faster than we expect. But we want to be one of the challengers for promotion.
“While other teams have got stronger, we’ve maintained our squad, gained more experience and strengthened in the areas we wanted.
“It’s a young squad but they’ve learnt from last season and have had a year to develop, improve and become wiser. They are all players who are passionate about becoming the best they can be.”
Watford begin their league campaign on Wednesday with a match against Millwall Lionesses at Berkhamsted FC.
However, they have already played two competitive games due to their involvement in the Women’s FA Cup.
The Hornets exited the competition after a 4-1 defeat to Sunderland, a result that Salomon says was down to one poor half.
But the Watford boss has been impressed with his side’s progress. A 1-0 pre-season victory against Division One side Bristol Academy has only reinforced his belief in the players.
“We’re a very honest and hard-working group of staff and players. We know if we go about our business and work hard, then hopefully we’ll be in the mix,” he says.
“There are teams that we don’t know too much about, like Yeovil. But if we set up in our way – the Watford way – then it will help us.
“We’ll obviously make little tweaks for the opposition but in general we have a way we play and that worked for us last season.”
The Women’s Super League will run throughout the summer and it’s hoped the lack of competition from men’s football will help increase attendances and raise the profile of the women’s game.
Several sides, including London Bees, Millwall and Doncaster Rovers Belles, will host home matches at their men’s club’s stadium.
BT Sport will broadcast games live while the BBC will have radio commentary of at least 16 fixtures.
Salomon says the increased publicity will benefit the women’s game and the club.
“The FA have been able to put more funding into the women’s game,” Salomon says. “They’ve got the support of BT Sport and several other partners which will probably only be noticed once the season gets underway.
“It’s something that’s been progressing for more than a year and it’s very exciting for all the clubs to be part of.”