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    Heskey and Morgan back Leicester Women to frighten WSL big guns next season after inspiring promotion win

    EMILE HESKEY jokes his first Leicester Women away trip coinciding with a 4-1 loss may not have been the ‘luckiest of omens’.But the Foxes hero believes the team can go toe-to-toe with their WSL rivals next term. 
    Emile Heskey believes Leicester City will be able to hold their own against teams in the WSLCredit: Getty
    Heskey praised Jonathan Morgan and his staff for welcoming him as a coachCredit: Getty
    The former England striker, 43, and club boss Jonathan Morgan were speaking days after Leicester’s triumph in the Women’s Championship.
    Their success follows a 12-game winning streak in a season that has seen them lose just once in their 18 fixtures played so far. 
    And promotion – secured after the Foxes beat London City this month – is the icing on the cake for Morgan and for Heskey who took on a coaching position in February.
    Heskey said: “Our match against London City Lionesses (in November) was one of the first games I went away to and it probably wasn’t the luckiest of omens going there at that time.
    “But it’s been fantastic to see the players going from strength to strength and winning the league by beating London City who are the only team to defeat us.
    “It’s an honour to be asked to come in first as an ambassador and then Jonathan and the staff embracing me to start coaching.
    “The manager has got the girls gelling well which we see with the way they’re playing.
    “We have gone up against WSL teams (like Birmingham) in cup competitions and shown that we can hold our own.
    “And that’s down to the preparation the manager has put in as well as the girls and their ability to perform.”
    Lachante Paul and her team-mates want to win their two remaining Championship games against Lewes and CharltonCredit: Getty

    Morgan and Heskey joked about not getting on before opening up on the mutual admiration that helped the progress of Leicester who face Liverpool next in the Women’s FA Cup.
    And Morgan – who celebrated his 33rd birthday this month – says it has been fascinating to work with the former Liverpool striker. 
    Morgan said: “We still joke about it now, but I remember when I was a young lad at the park, literally saying, Emile’s name when I was scoring goals.
    “To work alongside him and to get his knowledge and his insight into the game has been fascinating for me.
    “Emile has been to two World Cups, two European Championships and he has come in as humble as ever. 
    “It could have been very easy for someone to come in and take control or use what they’ve experienced in the wrong way. 
    “But he has not done that in any form and we’re a very close-knit coaching group.”
    Morgan and his Leicester Women’s team are due to take on Liverpool next in the FA CupCredit: Getty
    Leicester’s emergence as a WSL side has been more than seven years in the making for the club who were relegated to the fourth division of women’s football in May 2013. 
    And the Morgans, including Jonathan’s father Rohan and sisters Holly and Jade – who are the team’s captain and general manager – have been at the heart of their transformation.
    This includes a move that saw the women’s team acquired by the King Power owners of their Premier League counterparts.  
    Morgan added: “The philosophy of the club is family-based and I think that’s why our transition from being semi-pros to becoming professionals was seamless.
    “The people within the club are emotionally invested in the women’s team which is nice. 
    “I don’t think many women set-ups who integrate to the men’s team get that feeling, and we’re very lucky that we do.”
    The Foxes’ arrival in the WSL next term will see some of the team’s younger players get their first taste of top-flight competition.
    Among them is Shannon O’Brien, who in November was juggling a job as a Co-op shop assistant whilst playing for Coventry United before her January move.
    Shannon O’Brien says the Foxes aim to win 14 games on the bounceCredit: Getty
    The midfield ace, 19, made an instant impact netting a brace in her second appearance in a 7-0 trouncing of London Bees. 
    O’Brien said: “At the beginning of the season I was at Coventry and it was a relegation battle and I didn’t really get a lot of the ball.
    “I wasn’t really thinking in a couple of months time you’re going to be lifting the trophy at the end of May. But now I’m here and winning the league.
    “All my friends and family are happy to see us get promoted. Everyone was like ‘see you on TV next year’.
    “Going forward we want to win the two Championship games we’ve got left and get to the next round of the FA Cup.”
    Leicester and their WSL rivals will see their games shown on the BBC and Sky Sports next seasonCredit: ©MI News & Sport Ltd
    Leicester’s promotion comes days before the tenth anniversary of the WSL which is set to receive more exposure next term thanks to a £24million TV deal.
    And Heskey, who made 154 Foxes appearances between 1994 and 2000, believes the coverage could propel the careers of top-flight players.
    Heskey added: “With this new deal and the investment going in you can really push these players not just at our club but in clubs around the country.”
    Heskey believes the WSL’s TV deal could help boost the careers of Leicester’s playersCredit: Getty
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho practices his ball control in his back garden More

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    Brave Birmingham players speaking out about work conditions shows there are still huge steps to me made in women’s game

    BIRMINGHAM CITY players were incredibly brave to speak out against their own club.The FA opened an investigation into the Blues after their female stars wrote a letter slamming working conditions.
    Alex Scott salutes the bravery of Birmingham City Women players and calls on others to speak up
    The complaints reportedly included some players earning LESS than the minimum wage.
    There were also concerns over a lack of access to the training-ground gym, changing rooms, medical treatment and travel arrangements for away fixtures.
    Birmingham boss Carla Ward has since said “positive discussions” have taken place between her players and club bigwigs.
    City have expressed their commitment to the women’s team and plan to relocate games to St Andrew’s next season.
    I often feel as a female footballer you’re always meant to feel grateful, because everyone’s going out of their way to go above and beyond for you.
    So I know the situation must have been bad for those players to speak out and risk putting a stain on the Birmingham name.
    They must have felt enough is enough.
    People instantly presume that in women’s football we are fighting for equal pay, but we’re not. It’s bigger than that.
    It’s about having equal opportunities to working conditions with the men.
    This isn’t just about Birmingham City and them fighting on their own, but everyone who cares about the women’s game has got to speak up.
    Ward’s side weren’t demanding ridiculous things — they just wanted fair treatment from their club.
    Even though they play football for the love of the sport, the Birmingham players have ultimately put their jobs on the line by complaining.
    I know captain Harriet Scott juggles a medical degree with professional football. She recently swapped her footie shirt for scrubs to work at Royal Stoke Hospital, fighting Covid-19 on the front line.
    Players like Harriet have had to risk potentially losing an income from football and missing out on paying the bills to complain about City’s working conditions.

    I know how scared the players would have been during the process of writing the letter, so they deserve our full support.
    There have been so many positive steps made in women’s football, like the record broadcasting deal with Sky Sports and the BBC for next season.
    But it seems like now some people are viewing the WSL through rose-tinted glasses and not realising there are still huge steps to be made.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Man City and England ace Roebuck hits out at ‘unacceptable’ situation facing Birmingham Women More

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    France 3 England 1: PSG star Baltimore on target as Lionesses fall to first loss under Riise

    ENGLAND succumbed to their first defeat under interim boss Hege Riise as France impressed in Caen.Sandy Baltimore’s first-half wonder strike was among the goals that saw the visitors lose 3-1 after an entertaining end-to-end battle. 
    France beat England 3-1 in an international friendly in CaenCredit: AP
    PSG star Sandy Baltimore netted France’s opening goalCredit: Reuters
    Before kick-off there was a sombre tribute paid to Prince Phillip, with both teams holding a minute’s silence following The Duke of Edinburgh’s death hours before the clash. 
    And the early exchanges saw France show their attacking intent with danger woman Baltimore shooting narrowly wide after wrong-footing keeper Ellie Roebuck in the seventh minute. 
    With the contest seen as an audition for places in Riise’s Team GB Olympics squad, the Lionesses were also keen to get off to a flier. 
    And the team, led by skipper Ellen White, had some decent opportunities.
    First, through, Beth Mead’s fierce strike forcing a good save from Pauline Magnin-Peyraud in the 13th minute.
    And then through Nikita Parris looking to capitalise on a France error ten minutes later forcing the stopper to tip the ball behind. 
    But it was France –  who looked threatening on the counter – who took the lead with Baltimore smashing her effort into the top corner just after the half-hour mark.
    And England should have equalised in the second minute of stoppage time in the first period, but Parris sent her header agonisingly wide. 
    The second-half saw France win a penalty much to the frustration of skipper White and her team-mates. 
    And super sub Vivianne Asseyi doubled the hosts’ lead on the 60-minute mark. 
    Nikita Parris had a golden opportunity to level the game for England in the stoppage time stage of the first halfCredit: AP

    The introduction of Chloe Kelly, Niamh Charles and Lauren Hemp changed the momentum of the game for England.  
    And Hemp won a penalty converted by Fran Kirby in the late stages of the clash. 
    But a goal on the counter from PSG ace Marie-Antoinette Katoto in the closing moments saw France put the game to bed.
    Hege Riise and the Lionesses will take on Canada who beat Wales 3-0Credit: Getty
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    Chelsea star Sam Kerr opens up on growth since Blues move and during Covid pandemic

    SAM KERR says she’s had to grow a lot this year after a tough first term at Chelsea and dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.The Australia star joined the Blues at end of 2019 but struggled to make an impact initially netting a single goal in just four WSL appearances.
    Kerr says she has had to grow a-lot during the pandemic and her first season at ChelseaCredit: Getty
    To make things worse, a few months later the world would be overwhelmed by the spread of the Covid virus which the football community had to adapt to.
    But despite the obstacles, Kerr managed to turn things around and become a goalscoring machine for the WSL champions.
    And this season she has netted an impressive 17 goals, along with five assists, setting up a thrilling race for the Golden Boot with Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema.
    Kerr told “I think there were challenges definitely, for sure, but that’s why I moved to England to face those challenges.
    “And I’ve been playing really well the last few months, so I feel like it’s been the best move I could have possibly made and everyone deals with it differently.
    “It’s been just dealing with things week to week, day by day, even.
    “Things can change so quickly, but for me on the pitch, it’s been really enjoyable.
    “We’ve been playing really well, winning a lot of games. It’s been a growing year for me. But it’s also been really, really enjoyable.”
    Although she managed to turn her form around, Kerr says it’s been “intense” not to have a release from football during the pandemic.
    Kerr says it has been difficult to get a release from football during the pandemicCredit: Rex
    The Australia skipper added: “It’s one of those things where, as a footballer, life is so intense.
    “And then during this pandemic, it’s been just about football.
    “So I’ve always been a footballer that likes to have a release from football and the last 15 months it’s been football, football, football.
    “So for me, it’s been intense the last 15 months, especially not being able to go out and do those things that I like to do, have a coffee even.
    “We’ve been in lockdown for almost 10 months I feel like in England, so it’s been difficult, but I’ve really enjoyed I feel like I’ve learned a lot.”
    With limited human contact during lockdown the Blues star came to rely on her pet cat, Helen, for company.
    Kerr said: “Helen has been my lifesaver. I mean having a companion is just everything right?
    “And coming home, she’s just a cat, but when she just gives me a little meow and says hello, in the mornings or the afternoons, your cats and your dogs are just your life really.
    “And she’s definitely become a big part of my life.”
    The 27-year-old will get the chance to recreate her domestic form on the international stage as the Matildas gear up for their upcoming friendlies.

    They take on Germany on Saturday 9 April and Holland on Tuesday 13 April in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
    Football Australia have appointed Tony Gustavsson as the Matildas’ new boss ahead of both games
    And Kerr believes the team are in good hands with the former USA Women’s assistant coach at the helm.
    In a Sydney Morning Herald interview, Kerr said:”I think he’s going to fit in well not only with the team off the field, but on the field, I think he’s what we need.”
    Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Kerr and her Maltidas team-mates have friendly matches against Germany and HollandCredit: Getty – Contributor More

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    Women’s football aces call on social media firms to root out racially abusive accounts

    STARS of the women’s game have called on tech giants to tackle racist trolls online following an abusive post aimed at Rinsola Babajide. The England and Liverpool Women’s forward, 22, shared a screengrab of a shocking slur sent to her via Instagram in which an account used the N-word. 
    Liverpool winger Rinsola Babajide has been the target of a racist message posted on InstagramCredit: PA
    The Lionesses’ official Twitter account has called on social media companies to take action against racist abuse online
    In the post, a user going by the name azliz1 said: “Football is only for men you n*****. 
    However, Instagram surprised some users who reported the derogatory message by stating the account ‘doesn’t go against our Community Guidelines’. 
    Several football aces including former Liverpool Women’s boss Vicky Jepson are demanding action against racially abusive trolls.
    And some figures are directing their anger at Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #EnoughIsEnough. 
    Jepson, 33, said: “Social media needs to seriously step up and put a stop to this type of behaviour!”
    Jepson’s words were echoed by Chelsea keeper Carly Telford who called on Instagram to ‘do better’.
    And Wales midfield ace Jess Fishlock and her international team-mate Helen Ward have warned tech firms to ‘step up’. 

    Growing calls for a clampdown came on a day in which Swansea City announced they would be boycotting social media platforms created for their men’s and women’s teams for one week.
    In a statement, the Championship side said it was taking action after several players were subjected to ‘abhorrent abuse’.
    And the EFL team’s boycott of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat, comes after Jamal Lowe and two of his team-mates were targeted online. 
    Jamal Lowe is one of three Swansea City players who have been targeted by accounts posting racist messagesCredit: Mike Jones/News Images
    Swansea captain Matt Grimes said: “As a close and diverse group of players, this is something we all feel extremely passionate about. 
    “Three of our squad have been racially abused in recent weeks and, as a squad and club, we wanted to take this stance as we again call on those at the forefront of social media companies to implement the change that is needed now and in the future.
    “I find it staggering that we are still talking about racism and abuse of this kind.
    “We are acutely aware of the pressures within football at this level, but it shouldn’t be underestimated as to how such levels of abuse can affect someone.
    “Social media has provided so many positives over the last decade, however, the sickening and vile abuse that we are seeing on a daily and weekly basis is wholly unacceptable, and we hope that this stance across the club will be supported by everyone.
    Helen Ward is calling on social media firms to tackle racist abuse onlineCredit: Getty

    “We are a family, and we will always stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, whether that’s on the pitch or helping to fight injustice off it.”
    Facebook, who are the owners of Instagram, told SunSport that discrimination had no place on its platforms. 
    They also claimed they “want to hold people who share it accountable”.
    Swansea skipper Matt Grimes says the online abuse faced by his team-mates is ‘wholly unacceptable’.Credit: Rex
    Gareth Bale calls for sporting boycott on social media after racist abuse of Wales players More

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    England ace White coy on captaincy and says ‘selfless’ Houghton will be missed in France clash

    ELLEN WHITE refuses to be drawn over whether she will captain England in the absence of injured skipper Steph Houghton. And the striker reckons the presence of her ‘selfless’ Man City team-mate will be missed when the Lionesses take on France.  
    A stand-in skipper for Steph Houghton is due to be announced ahead of the Lionesses’ clash with FranceCredit: PA:Press Association
    The clash will see Hege Riise’s aces play on French soil for their first time since the semi-finals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. 
    And there has been much speculation over who will lead the team, with White among the favourites to stand in for Houghton – who will miss fixtures against France and Canada due to an Achilles injury. 
    When asked if strikers make good England skippers White said: “Alan Shearer was a great captain for England. 
    “I have captained England before, it was a dream and it’s the same with Man City. 
    “I don’t know who the captain is going to be, but whoever is picked as skipper will be a great asset to the England team. 
    “I do miss Steph as she’s a phenomenal leader. She’s so selfless and someone that I look up to. 
    “She does a great job and if I can do anything half as good as she does, then I will be pleased.”
    White, who was involved in the Lionesses last competitive match against France, has evolved into one of the more senior members of the side with 93 international caps.
    White and her team-mates will be looking to pick up their second international win of the yearCredit: Getty

    And being a positive influence on younger squad members is a duty the Man City star takes seriously. 
    White added: “As I’ve got a little bit older, I’ve been wanting to take on a bit more of a leadership role and helping players coming up. 
    “I think it’s important for the more experienced to help those players and give them someone to talk to, some guidance and an arm around the shoulder.”
    The match between the Lionesses and France – currently ranked by Fifa as the world’s third-best team – will take place four days before the tenth anniversary of the WSL. 
    White, who won the title in the division’s debut season with Arsenal, credits the league for nurturing some of the best players to have donned an England shirt. 
    And the striker, who is seven goals away from equalling Kelly Smith’s record tally for England, says her focus is on helping the team rack up more wins.
    White is seven goals away from equalling Kelly Smith’s record as the Lionesses’ top scorer with 49Credit: PA:Press Association
    White said: “The league has been great for us in terms of bringing English youth through.
    “Selfishly that’s great for English football and hopefully that will continue.
    “Obviously, I want to score goals but I also want the team to do well.
    “I’ll do whatever I can do to help the team which is the main priority.” 
    England and France will go head-to-head for the first time since the Lionesses’ 4-1 victory in the 2018 SheBelieves Cup. 
    Nikita Parris could be set to make an appearance against FranceCredit: Getty
    And it will be the first time interim boss Riise will see Nikita Parris in action with the Lyon ace getting a late call-up following her negative Covid-19 result. 
    Riise said: “It’s good for us to have her in, even though she came in late. 
     “She came with such energy and she’s been a part of this team for a long time and a key player.”
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    Carla Ward says Birmingham City board in ‘positive discussions’ with women’s side following players’ complaints

    CARLA WARD says Birmingham City bigwigs have held “positive discussions” with the women’s side following complaints from players.The FA opened an investigation after players wrote a letter to the club’s board highlighting concerns over a lack of support.
    Birmingham boss Carla Ward says her players have held “positive discussions” with Blues bigwigs
    Birmingham Women formally complained to the club’s board about working conditions
    The complaints reportedly included players earning less than the minimum wage as well as delays over treatment for injured players.
    There were also concerns over a lack of access to the training-ground gym and changing rooms as well as travel arrangements for away fixtures.
    In a statement released on Thursday, the Blues said they were “disappointed” that a “private and internal matter was made public”.
    The Blues said: “We are keen to emphasise that the Club remains committed to providing support for our Women’s team.
    “We will further the conversation internally in a bid to address players’ concerns, the details of which, will remain private.
    Birmingham boss Ward added: “This week we have held positivediscussions with the board relating to the concerns raised by the players. 
    “It was never the intention of the players for the letter to be made public and many of the points were misrepresented.
    “We are working together to move forward and will remain in communication with the board to resolve matters internally.  “We are now approaching a vital stage of the season and will focus all our efforts on winning as many games as possible to keep the Club in the WSL.”
    It’s a shame in 2021 we still have women’s teams competing in the top league in England having to ask for help like this. We should all be given the chance to perform at the highest level we can, Birmingham Women we all stand with you 💙— Fran Kirby (@frankirby) April 5, 2021

    City also hit back at some of the accusations over pay, facilities and medical arrangements.
    Birmingham added: “Some claims have been particularly damaging and some so ridiculous, they don’t warrant any attention.
    “It is no secret we have one of the lowest budgets in the WSL,
    “And whilst the Club has supported the Women’s set-up with large investment over recent years, this is incomparable to some of the budgets that exist in the league today.
    “The Women’s football landscape has changed drastically with more investment and resources required year-on-year.
    “The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to compound an already difficult situation.
    “The impact of this will be felt by many Club’s across the country and we do not believe that many of the challenges we face, are unique to Birmingham City.”
    A professional league… great 👍🏾 ‘Professional standards’ across all the clubs ❌ The @BCFCwomen are a credit to the league and the club as a whole and should not be treated like this!— Alex Scott MBE (@AlexScott) April 5, 2021

    Birmingham Women expressed concerns about gym facilities, pay and a lack of medical support
    The PFA released a statement earlier on Thursday announcing its support for the Blues aces players.
    And they revealed they have been “in close dialogue” with senior representatives from the squad throughout the season. The West Midlands club added: “Whilst we have a small squad size in relation to other Clubs in the BFAWSL,
    “We also have an obligation to fund the team responsibly and the Club have worked hard to recruit players in keeping with our playing budget.
    “Some of the issues raised relate to the size of our facilities in addition to our staffing levels.
    “We continue to work with the FA regarding licensing criteria and contrary to reports, we meet all minimum wage regulations in relation to contracted players.”
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    Lyon star striker to join Lionesses camp ahead of games against France and Canada

    NIKITA PARRIS will join the England Women’s training camp ahead of the upcoming clashes with France and Canada. The Lyon forward has been called up by interim boss Hege Riise after being given all the clear following her negative Covid-19 test. 
    Nikita Parris will join her international team-mates in their training campCredit: PA
    And the addition of the former Manchester City star means Riise’s squad size has increased to 26 – with City defender Esme Morgan also receiving a call-up. 
    Riise, 51, said: “It is the first opportunity I have had to work with Nikita in person and I am delighted to have her on camp with us.
    “It is a good opportunity to watch her closely, as I have been with all the other players who have joined up on camp, and to have her available for selection against two tough opponents.”
    Parris, who has 50 international caps, is set to follow the Lionesses’ Covid-19 protocol when she joins up with her team-mates at St George’s Park.
    The forward, 27, has been on fire in front of goal for the champions of France’s top women’s division this term, netting 11 times in just 15 games. 
    The former WSL star’s club had initially refused to allow her to link up with England following a string of positive coronavirus tests results.
    The results forced Lyon to postpone their Champions League quarter-final second leg tie with PSG.
    The Lionesses will go head-to-head with France in the French city of Caen on Friday, April 9.
    And they will return home for a match on Tuesday, April 13 against a Canada side managed by former England assistant coach Bev Priestman. 
    The friendly with France, who are currently ranked the world’s third-best side, will see England play on French soil for the first time since the semis of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. 
    Hege Riise and her England players will pushing for their second international friendly win when they play FranceCredit: Getty

    The last exchange between the sides ended in a 4-1 victory for the Lionesses at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup with Parris featuring in the winning side. 
    The clash, which will kick-off at 8.10pm at the Stade Michel d’Ornano, is set to be aired on BBC Four. 
    And Riise’s England side, ranked sixth, will be eager to pick up their second international win of the year after beating Northern Ireland Women 6-0 in a friendly in February.
    England Women’s squad for April camp
    Goalkeepers: Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Sandy MacIver (Everton), Carly Telford (Chelsea), Karen Bardsley (OL Reign, on loan from Manchester City).
    Defenders: Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Millie Turner (Manchester United), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City) Esme Morgan (Manchester City).
    Midfielders: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Jill Scott (Everton, on loan from Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Keira Walsh (Manchester City).
    Forwards: Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Beth England (Chelsea), Ellen White (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal) Nikita Parris.

    Lionesses in training More