‘Just talking about football will take the Women’s Super League to the next level’ – Reading’s Fishlock

Jess Fishlock Wales Women 2019Getty

It’s been eight years since Jess Fishlock, a player who has won everything there is to win, was last playing her club football in England.

She has returned – on loan – to the Women’s Super League to turn out for Reading in one of the signings of the window, as the Royals look to move from a consistent top-half club to one pushing for Champions League places.

What she returns to is a league that has come on leaps and bounds since she was last here, with Bristol.

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But as a player that arrives from the best league in the world – the National Women’s Soccer League, where she has played for OL Reign for the last seven years – she knows a lot about what more it needs to do, too.

“The one thing for me is that I'd like to see everybody, like [the media], just talk about the football. That would help take it to the level,” the Wales international says.

“I think we talk too much about the men's club is investing in the women, or the women's crowds. I'd like to see everyone take the surround sound away and focus on the football.

“What's the tactics? Just talk about football. I think that would take the game naturally to the next level.

"I don't think we need to pander around any more. Women's football is a high level product and I think we need to focus on that far more than the other stuff. I think that time has gone."

Fishlock’s move to Reading has certainly got people talking. A two-time Champions League winner, a player who just over a year ago was turning out for the biggest team in Europe, Lyon, her signing for fifth-placed Reading is a real coup.

Jess Fishlock Wendie Renard Lyon Women 2019Getty

"I like the challenge of taking the team into the top three,” she says, with the Champions League places available this season possibly expanding to three, depending on England’s UEFA coefficient.

“It's a different sort of challenge to those I've usually taken on. It's definitely the season to bridge the gap. I would like to say yes, we can do this, but I'm also a bit realistic.

“That means we've got to be consistent. Every week we have to be at the very top of our game with no slip ups.

"If we can be really hard to beat and pick up a few points at the start of the season while we're finding our feet then we can really kick on.

"I don't see why we can't fly, but it might take a bit more like 18 months to really break into that top three."

Should she enjoy herself at Reading too, the club will have their eyes on the possibility of keeping her around.

Fishlock admits that her return to the UK has been motivated by how "difficult" she found it to be so far away from her family during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In America, I just didn't feel right not being near my family during this time. It was something I really struggled with," she says.

“To be in America in 2020 has been a bit of a whirlwind. There's just a lot going on and a lot has kind of not been dealt with very well, so naturally that does change your thought process on where you want to be and what you want to do.

“We'll see what happens in America for next six to eight months. I don't want to get into politics here but, hopefully, come November, if good old Trump is out the door, then we'll see what happens from there.

“But it's 2020 and you never know. A lot of things have changed in the last six months."

For now, returning from an ACL injury, Fishlock’s focus is on getting back on the pitch. With Team GB sending a team to the Olympics next summer, and the Euros taking place the following year, she has lots of added incentives to get back to her best, too.

"I think anybody would like to be involved,” she says, asked if she has her eye on the Olympics.

“In all honesty, I'm just concentrating on playing again. It's been a long time since I've been able to get on the field. I've got belief in my ability, but my focus right now is just playing.

“And obviously the Euros with Wales is more important. Would I rather qualify for the Euros? Yes.

“But I don't think anybody is thinking about a major tournament now. They're just thinking about playing. It's been so long. We just want to be playing."