Good form is no fluke for the Roy­als' goal-ma­chine

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Kieran Thievam

WHEN you’ve spent 13 years at your home­town club and pro­gressed through the ranks from the age of nine, you could be for­given for tak­ing a bit of time to set­tle into a new club when fi­nally de­cid­ing the time is right to move on.

But with 12 goals in 13 league starts (be­fore last night’s game with Don­caster Rovers Belles) and a fur­ther strike in the Con­ti­nen­tal Tyres Cup, Read­ing striker Emma Fol­lis has hit the ground run­ning in her first sea­son with the Lady Roy­als, play­ing her part in pro­pel­ling the club to the brink of pro­mo­tion as we en­ter the busi­ness end of the sea­son.

Only Don­caster’s Court­ney Sweet­man-Kirk has bet­tered Fol­lis’ tally this sea­son, mak­ing the 23-year-old Birm­ing­ham­born striker one of the most pro­lific for­wards out­side of the top di­vi­sion.

With Eng­land striker Fran Kirby re­cently leav­ing the Roy­als to join Chelsea Ladies, Fol­lis’ goals have be­come even more cru­cial as her side edge closer to the top di­vi­sion, but she is adamant she’s not feel­ing any ex­tra bur­den.

Pro­lific

“Ev­ery­one wants to score goals, but I don’t think it made me more self-con­scious when Fran left, I just want to do the best I can to help this club win pro­mo­tion,” she said.

Read­ing’s en­try into the newly formed FAWSL 2 last year has seen the club push on since be­ing rel­e­gated to the third tier of the women’s football pyra­mid in 2012.

The club has been able to de­velop young tal­ents such as Lau­ren Bru­ton and Becky Jane, while adding ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­na­tion­als in­clud­ing He­len Ward and Kylie Davies.

It is this mix­ture of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence that Fol­lis says has been key to the team’s im­pres­sive form this year.

“We’ve all pulled to­gether since Fran left, but we were very team-ori­en­tated al­ready and have a lot of qual­ity in this squad.

“I think that’s proven when you look at our goal dif­fer­ence. We’ve been solid at the back and have kept goals out, as well as scor­ing them; it’s not all about one or two play­ers.”

This is easily the young striker’s best sea­son in front of goal, and while she cred­its the set-up and coach­ing at Read­ing for help­ing with her pro­gres­sion, train­ing with some well-known World Cup win­ners dur­ing two short stints in Amer­ica may well have con­trib­uted.

Thanks to a rec­om­men­da­tion from then Villa team-mate Erin Vaughan, Fol­lis se­cured a move in the 2013 off-sea­son to Seat­tle Reign Re­serves, who played their football in the third tier of women’s soc­cer in Amer­ica and was formed from a part­ner­ship be­tween Na­tional Women’s Soc­cer League side Seat­tle Reign and Is­saquah Soc­cer Club.

Due to the close links be­tween the Reign and its re­serve side, Fol­lis and Vaughan were in­vited to train with the first team, who are in­ci­den­tally coached by for­mer Ar­se­nal Ladies coach Laura Har­vey.

Best

“It was prob­a­bly one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences of my ca­reer to be able to train with play­ers of that cal­i­bre,” she said. “I was quite ner­vous train­ing with the likes of Me­gan Rapi­noe and Hope Solo at first, but I ad­justed and it was such a valu­able few months for my de­vel­op­ment.”

Read Fol­lis’ Twit­ter pro­file and you will see the words “for­ever lov­ing Seat­tle,” which is an in­di­ca­tion of just how much she ben­e­fited from her time spent out on the Pa­cific West Coast.

But she wasn’t done. With the inau­gu­ral sea­son of the FAWSL 2 due to kick-off in 2014, the 23-yearold made the de­ci­sion to re­turn to the US and miss the start of the English cam­paign, sign­ing for the Seat­tle Sounders Women’s team, who play their football in the US WLeague – Amer­ica’s sec­ond tier.

“It wasn’t a hard back, be­cause I re­tur ten times bet­ter tha fol­low­ing my first stin go back out there a even bet­ter.

“I got to train with Reign girls again, w sive be­cause I was ev­ery day with world some of which are W ners now.”

Af­ter the W-Lea pleted, Fol­lis re­turn “fit­ter and more ruth

de­ci­sion to go rned to Eng­land an I was be­fore, nt, so I thought I’d and try and get h Laura and the which was mas­train­ing al­most d class play­ers, World Cup win- gue was comned to Eng­land hless” af­ter her time out in the States, fin­ish­ing the sea­son with As­ton Villa, be­fore de­cid­ing the time was right to move.

Move

It’s a move that’s cer­tainly paid off when you look at where Read­ing are and Fol­lis’ goalscor­ing ex­ploits, but the Eng­land Un­der-23 in­ter­na­tional is well aware that should the club go up, there will be some “fine tun­ing” that will be needed.

“We’ve played Chelsea and Ar­se­nal this year and they’ve shown that they are a class above, but the score­lines were close, so with a bit of fine tun­ing I’m con­fi­dent we can com­pete with them.

“Sun­der­land have shown that if you are well pre­pared and or­gan­ised, you can go up and do well.

“I think the top di­vi­sion is where we be­long and I am con­fi­dent we will get there.

“I hope I can score the goals that get us up, but all I want to do is win, be­cause that’s what we’re all about.”

Read­ing will take a break from the league for their next fix­ture, as they travel up to Not­ting­ham to take on Notts County Ladies in the Con­ti­nen­tal Tyres Cup with a place in the semi-fi­nals at stake.

The Roy­als for­ward con­fessed that the com­pe­ti­tion “prob­a­bly isn’t a pri­or­ity,” but said a cup run is al­ways nice to have.

“The league is our pri­or­ity, but like when we played Chelsea and Ar­se­nal, this is a chance to test our­selves against a top side, so we’ll see what hap­pens,” she added.

Ex­pect her to make an im­pact.

STATE­SIDE: Emma Fol­lis had two spells in Seat­tle, where she honed her skills and de­vel­oped her game TEAM­MATE: Lau­ren Bru­ton

PIC­TURE: The FA

TEAM­MATE: Becky Jane CLASSY: Emma Fol­lis shows her fin­ish­ing prow­ess to score against Mill­wall Lionesses

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