Jess Fishlock: Reading signing says WSL can be 'best in world

By Michael PearlmanBBC Sport Wales

Jess Fishlock says a competitive Women's Super League (WSL) can become "the best league in the world".

Wales' most capped player will return to the WSL for the first time since 2012 after joining Reading on loan.

Fishlock plays for OL Reign in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) in the US but their league season was replaced by a cup due to Covid-19.

"With the NWSL not playing right now, I think all eyes will be on the WSL," Fishlock told BBC Sport Wales.

"With the worldwide climate as it is, all eyes are on us.

"Can they grab this opportunity with two hands and run with it? I think so, I think it's the opportunity we've all been waiting for.

"The WSL needs to have the most competitive season it has had and if that happens, I think it will be a runaway, huge success in two or three years, the best league in the world. It could be that, I honestly think, but right now it isn't competitive enough."

Fishlock will play with several of her Wales teammates for Kelly Chambers' side, with captain Natasha Harding, midfielders Angharad James and Rachel Rowe and defender Lily Woodman all featuring for the Royals, who finished fifth in last season's curtailed campaign.

The new WSL season gets under way on Sunday, 5 September with Reading travelling to Arsenal.

Jess Fishlock
Jess Fishlock cumulatively played 70 minutes of the NWSL Challenge Cup before OL Reign were knocked out by Chicago Red Stars on penalties in the quarter-finals

'This will be a very good part of my life'

Fishlock, who has been based in Seattle for seven years, says she returned to the UK primarily as she did not trust that she would be able to leave the USA due to coronavirus restrictions if she waited.

"Things are a bit crazy in America right now and it is nice to be back with the family and I will probably be home for a while now, longer than I have been in the last decade or so," she said.

"I do like America and Seattle, but Wales is my home. I've only seen my family for maybe five days in the year. And with how everything is now in the world, I didn't hesitate to come home when I had the chance.

"With cases rising as they are right now (in the US) I wasn't sure if I could get into the UK, so I wanted to do that as quickly as I could.

"I am home with my family now and my heart is very full. Not being around them is one of the hardest things, so coming home and being around my family for the next six months will be a very good part of my life."

Jess Fishlock
Wales' next qualifer is in Oslo against Norway on 22 September

Serious injury to prolong career?

Fishlock was sidelined for 13 months after knee surgery and says she needs match minutes ahead of Wales' Euro 2021 qualifiers, beginning in September.

The 33-year old has previously discussed international retirement, but now admits she feels refreshed and could be tempted to play on until the 2023 World Cup, now scheduled just a year after the delayed Euro 2021 tournament.

"I've had the conversation with a couple of coaches and my family," she added.

"I was getting to the point where I was probably mentally exhausted from playing all the time. Different teams, national team, the pressure and expectation of playing at the highest level for 13 years.

"This injury, although I would have liked to do it a different way, has really refreshed my mental capacity and physical outlook on football and life.

"I'm 33, tore my ACL, people probably think I'm done, but I feel so refreshed and excited to get back."