The Football Association Women's Awards took place last Friday at the Brewery in east London. The awards saw the women's official 2013 international/domestic season wrapped up and celebrated, with all involved in the women's game in attendance.
This is always a date for the diary and this year did not disappoint. No surprise on the day that the worthy winners of the major awards were Liverpool Ladies. After the season and the transformation that has taken place with Liverpool Ladies in 2013, this was the icing on the cake for the bold and progressive strides forward the club have taken by finally being backed financially by the men's side.
Manager of the Year went to Matt Beard. Matt went into Liverpool last year with the same ambition as the owners. It was out with the old and in with the new. Matt basically brought in a whole new team of players who were balanced with experience, youth, English and international players. The easy thing is signing all these new players, the hard part is getting the team to gel and play the way he sees fit and turn them into a team of champions. This is exactly what Matt did and why he deservedly walked away with this prestigious award.
Players' Player and the Golden Boot Award went to Liverpool's Natasha Dowie, who really has had the season of her career. Natasha has flourished and come into her own, even forcing her way back into the international fold. Everyone involved in the game knew she had the capabilities and qualities to do just this. She has proved to everyone this season what a great goalscorer she is and shown just how much more there is to come. From talking with Natasha and being around her on the international stage with England, I think the thing that I have seen in her this year is the ruthless attitude and the willingness to do all she can to get to where she wants to be and take her football seriously. This makes me smile, because I remember being in exactly this same place some years ago now. It was this attitude that transformed me as a player and my outlook on what I needed to do personally if I wanted to be the best player I could.
The award for Team of the Year went to Bristol Academy. Bristol along with Liverpool have had an amazing season which saw them reach an FA Cup final and finish second in the Women's Super League (FAWSL), which is their highest league position to date and in doing so secured a Champions League spot for next season. Every season, Bristol Academy really go from strength-to-strength under the guidance of Mark Sampson.
Arsenal Ladies managed to come away with something on the day, with Stephanie Houghton walking away with the award for FAWSL Goal of the Season for her strike against Lincoln Ladies - which rescued us a point in that game.
I myself took to the stage when I was presented with my golden 100th cap. On the stage I was joined by former captain Gill Coultard, who only up until recently led the way for so many years with being the most capped England Women's player. Gill was a great servant and important player for England in her time and is always spoken about as being one of England Women's all-time greats.
Now, with a lot of movement already taking place - players like England's Jill Scott and Karen Bardsley joining Manchester City, former Birmingham player Rachel Williams joining Chelsea ladies, and Kim Little leaving to play in the US - this really is going to be an interesting couple of months for players and teams alike. The one huge positive thing about women's football in this country is that people are talking about it. This creates interests and once again it feels like our sport is moving in the right direction.