The WSL Hall of Fame

Following the announcement of Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry as the first inductees into the EPL Hall of Fame, Laura Howard assesses who should be the first names on the WSL's list.

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Candlemasbear

Image: Wikimedia Commons / Candlemasbear

After the introduction of the Hall of Fame for the Premier League recently, the Women’s Super League (WSL) are set to follow suit and introduce their own iteration in celebration of their 10th anniversary.

Just as the men’s game has seen all football history prior to the Premier League washed away in the interests of commercialism, so too has women’s football excluded the pre-WSL era. This potentially leads to the omission of greats like Kelly Smith who, despite winning a quadruple and scoring 73 goals from 66 games in her initial Arsenal stint, was plagued by injury at the advent of the WSL.

Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly plenty of candidates deserving of a place in the WSL Hall of Fame. The league has certainly overseen an accelerating rise in the popularity and prominence of women’s football and hopefully the celebration of key players within this will further highlight the quality that exists within the sport.

It is hard to overlook the brilliance of the all-time WSL record goal scorer Vivianne Miedema. At the age of 24 she already has 59 WSL goals to her name in just 63 appearances and helped carry Arsenal to the title in 2019, picking up the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and a Ballon D’Or nomination for her efforts.

Though we don’t yet know the criteria against which players will be chosen, if the first two picks for the Premier League are anything to go by, Miedema certainly fits the bill. Shearer and Henry both boast outstanding goalscoring records and Miedema is no different.

Often greats are made not just by their footballing prowess but by their memorable personality traits. The nonchalance of the Dutch striker has made her notorious for her understated goal celebrations, preferring a calm walk back to the halfway line ahead of an impassioned knee-slide or elaborate dance routine. 

Touted by many supporters as the ‘GOAT’ (greatest of all time), Miedema’s response was one of initial bewilderment: "Until a year ago I didn't even know what GOAT meant, I was like: 'It's not really nice for people to call me a goat. It's not the best animal to be'.” But it is a title she has a rightful claim to. Not only are her goals prolific but many have been spectacular too - her highlight reel from playing Brighton alone includes a lob, solo efforts and a ricochet in off the bar from outside the box.

England captain Steph Houghton must also be among the strongest candidates to be one of the first inductees. The defender has featured consistently in the WSL since it was established and has won it on three occasions in that time with Arsenal and Manchester City.

Though not a traditional pick for a Hall of Fame - groups that often end up filled with stat-fulfilling strikers or showboating midfielders – she seems no less than an obvious choice for the honour. This is testament to her consistency and prominence in women’s football.

She instantly impressed when she emerged into the mainstream conscience with powerful performances for Team GB at London 2012, becoming the team’s leading goal scorer from left-back. Since then, her rise in the WSL has seen her achieve the second most appearances in the competition and lead the rise of Manchester City as a major force in women’s football.

Perhaps an outside shout for the initial inductees but someone who certainly deserves to be in the discussion is Ellen White. She, too, has been ever-present for the lifetime of the WSL and her own trajectory has followed that of women’s football.

Having won the WSL twice with Arsenal in 2011 and 2012, she subsequently went on to play for both Notts County and Birmingham City making her no stranger to a number of top clubs. Currently she resides at the Academy Stadium, home to Manchester City, a move which reflects her increasing reputation in the women’s game.

She also boasts a distinguished goal-scoring record and for a period overtook Miedema as record WSL goal scorer. As a stalwart of the WSL and member of some of its most successful teams in a career that still seems to be on the rise, White cannot be overlooked as a contender.

Fara Williams will surely also be up there with the top shouts having had a long and successful career at numerous clubs including Liverpool and Arsenal. She has been described as a ‘pioneer’ in the women’s game and has been a consistent goal-scoring midfielder throughout her 20-year career.

In these predictions, success, individual achievement, and career success predominantly in the WSL era have been favoured. Yet from other criteria there are many other players who would be deemed strong contenders to be inducted into the WSL Hall of Fame.

Contributions to the game by Alex Scott and Karen Carney both in their playing days and now in their media roles recommend them to the honour. Both, however, arguably achieved the greatest success of their career in the legendary Arsenal team pre-WSL. More recently the likes of Fran Kirby and Lucy Bronze have asserted themselves as potential contenders.

The first inductees are set to be announced prior to the start of the 2021/22 season and there will be no shortage of candidates for the initial or subsequent batches. The initiative will give well-deserved recognition to women who have contributed considerably to a rise in prominence of the WSL and of women’s football more generally.