Brighton: How early WSL leaders are planning to succeed on and off pitch

By Emma SandersBBC Sport
Brighton women
Former England manager Hope Powell (centre) has guided the team through three WSL seasons so far

It has been a perfect start to the Women's Super League season for Brighton, in more ways than one.

Hope Powell's side sit top of the table with two wins from their opening two games, having not conceded a goal yet.

But this comes as no real surprise to those within the club.

Earlier this month, the women's team moved into a brand-new training facility at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, which will also be used by the men's academy - a result of an £8.5m investment.

At their disposal is a new gym, a medical centre, changing areas, a recovery facility and swimming pools, as well as state-of-the-art training pitches.

It is a statement of intent from the club on their support for the women's team - who will look to keep their place at the top of the table when they host Aston Villa in their next league fixture on Sunday, 26 September (14:00 BST).

And that statement of intent comes following the addition of summer signing Danielle Carter, the first female player to sign for Brighton for a fee, although the cost is undisclosed.

"It shows the direction the club are going in," said Carter. "They are not just talking about it but doing it and providing the women's team with the provisions that the men have.

"Where we want to be as a club... they are giving us what we need to achieve it. We have no excuse now with the facilities we've got.

"We have three swimming pools! Our problem now is that we'll never actually leave the training ground so our recovery might be too long..."

Carter also said she "bought into the process" at Brighton.

That process has seen gradual investment in the women's team and it has been reflected in their development on the pitch.

Since earning promotion to the WSL for the 2018-19 season, Brighton had two ninth-place finishes before ending last season in sixth.

And their rise up the table was a big factor in forward Rinsola Babajide's decision to join Brighton on loan from Liverpool this season.

"For where I am right now in my career, it's the best place for me," Babajide told BBC Sport. "Brighton did so well last season so it was a no-brainer for me.

"They competed so well with the top four. I wanted to come in and hopefully I can help them progress as a group. Brighton are very ambitious.

"The facilities here are amazing too. Knowing the plans for the women's team and the men's team coming together - they really include the women's team in the plans, so that's very important.

"A lot of places say 'we're one club' but it's not actually the case, yet here they are living and breathing it."

Brighton women celebrate
Brighton ended Chelsea's unbeaten record last season on their way to finishing sixth

While things are in place off the pitch for Brighton to succeed, experienced defender Victoria Williams believes it is a "unique team bond" which ultimately brings it all together on matchdays.

"It's all about helping each individual as a player and a person and respecting them for who they are," added Williams.

"We are very welcoming. We all give each other a lot of confidence. We don't have loads of superstars in the team but what we do have is great team spirit.

"That's evident from the results we've had and the run we went on last season. That was all about being together as a team. On our day we can compete with any team in this league. I think that's a pull."

Williams also praised Powell - a former England manager who is hugely respected within the game for her experience and nurturing of youth players.

"We give great opportunities for our youngsters," Williams said. "We have a pathway here. Any young player signing knows we have an ex-England manager who knows how to help players get to the top."

Babajide added: "Hope has taken me under her wing and is making sure I'm making progress. Every day she is working with me to see how I can get better on and off the pitch as a professional.

"Tactically I'm working hard with her and the other coaches. She has massive belief in me so I can't wait to hopefully prove her right."

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