Swansea City Ladies 2022-23 review | Ceri Phillips | Work for next season starts now

7th May 2023
Ladies
Swans Ladies Team photos

Ceri Phillips believes there are plenty of positives to take after a transitional first season as Swansea City Ladies head coach.

Phillips, who was initially brought in as a first-team coach, stepped up to take charge of the side just one week before the Swans' Champions League match against PAOK in Greece last summer.

As season openers go, it couldn’t have been much tougher for the 2021-22 Genero Adran Premier champions, who faced the semi-pro 17-time Greek Champions in temperatures which peaked at 38 degrees during the first half.

It was a narrow 2-0 defeat for the Swans, who then faced professional Hungarian outfit Ferencváros and were soundly beaten 7-0 despite a strong showing.

Swansea City Ladies v AC POAK

“The Champions League was an unbelievable experience,” said Phillips.

“I don’t think the players could have done any more in terms of the level of opposition we were coming up against; they were full-time professionals.

"But what I saw was a group that gave it everything in unbelievably challenging conditions and with next to no resources compared to the sides we faced.”

The Genero Adran Premier League returned in record-breaking fashion for the reigning champions. Their first home match – a clash with 2021-22 runners-up Cardiff Met Women – was staged at the Swansea.com Stadium and shown live on S4C.

It was the first time the Ladies had played at the ground and it drew a then record-breaking crowd of almost 1,500 people.

It was a dominant performance from the home side. Lifelong Swan Katy Hosford opened the scoring in fine fashion before Stacey John-Davis began her successful golden boot campaign with an excellent chipped effort to make it 2-0.

It was a landmark occasion for women’s football in Wales and demonstrated a growing appetitie for women's football in the country.

“I think the exposure of playing the two games at the Swansea.com Stadium has been brilliant,” Phillips said. The Swans also played out a 1-1 draw with Cardiff City at the stadium later in the year.

“It’s been fantastic for everyone involved.

“Lots of our players have been at the club for many, many years and have been through lots of change and experienced a lot.

"I think everyone involved in the club was deserving of those opportunities, but none more so than the players and staff who have been with the club for all that time.

“They’ve been working so hard for so many years, and then to see the fans coming out to support them with two really strong attendances, that’s the highlight of the season for me.”

A win over Barry Town United followed the week after, but defeat to Cardiff City in the third match signalled the significant challenge which lay ahead for an adapting Swans team.

The Bluebirds went top of the table after that result and remained there for the rest of the season.

But the Swans kept pressure on the top spot and were within touching distance of the league-leaders thanks to emphatic wins over Abergavenny and Barry Town.

But the home draw against Cardiff at the end of Phase One put the Bluebirds firmly in pole position heading into the Championship phase.

Last day Phase One drama – which culminated in The New Saints scoring a crucial late goal to seal fourth place on goal difference – meant it was TNS and Cardiff Met who joined the Swans and Cardiff City in the Championship Phase.

Entering the second element of the season, the Swans’ fate was in their own hands if they could take six points from their closest rivals. They'd looked on track for a victory in the home tie at Llandarcy, but two points were cruelly snatched away at the death by a Cardiff equaliser.

A strong performance had Phillips’ side deservedly leading heading into added time, but Phoebe Poole scored in the seventh minute of injury time to take the title race out of the Swans' hands.

Monet Legall competes for the ball against Cardiff City

The Bluebirds went on to seal the title with two games to spare, while the Swans were second with a comfortable 12-point gap over Cardiff Met in third.

However, at the end of a transitional season which saw the squad battle with injuries to key players as well as adapting to a new style of play under a new boss, Phillips believes there is plenty to build on for the new campaign.

“I think on the whole, there’s a lot to be positive about,” he summarised.

“By the success of the team in years gone by, we haven’t quite reached the same standards and there are many things within our control which we need to put right for next season.

“We had some good moments, including a 15-game unbeaten run, but credit to the very strong Cardiff City side who won the league.

“We only lost three games, but that’s too many when we look at the standards set by this team in the past few seasons.”

The Swans scored an impressive 69 goals across all competitions with Hosford and John-Davis both reaching 15 for the season.

“We had two of the top scorers in the league so there’s plenty to build on and be positive about,” Phillips added.

“Obviously it’s just been about learning the quality of the opposition we’re facing and how to approach games and then respecting the vast improvement throughout a league which is getting stronger year on year.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself too, and now there are things we know we can put right going into next season.

“It’s ever-changing, every team will improve so it’s important we start putting in the work now ahead of next year to make sure we’re right up there again come the end of the season.”

Ceri Phillips Swans Ladies vs TNS

Playing in the Champions League has made for a long season and, for the players at least, Phillips believes it’s time for a rest and recharge ready for the challenge of the 2023-24 campaign.

Cardiff City, Cardiff Met and TNS continue to improve while the promotion of AFC Wrexham Women will create additional competition and quality across the league.

“The work doesn’t stop for us as coaching staff,” he added.

“We’ll use this season as motivation going forward. There will be some changes, we’ll make improvements but I think a refresh and recharge over the summer will be good because we’ll have to compete with the two Cardiff teams, TNS are getting stronger all the time and now Wrexham are coming up to our league.

“We’ll be shaping the team for next season, looking to bring new players in and putting our own stamp on things as a management team in order to leave no stone unturned for the 2023-24 season."

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