KELLY CHAMBERS says she hopes to guide Reading Women to European qualification within the next three years as her “fantastic” 2016 draws to a close.
Chambers rounded off her fine year personally by being crowned Women In Sport ‘Coach of the Year’ ahead of Chelsea boss Emma Hayes and England coach Mo Marley.
That followed on from achieving the goal of keeping Reading in the top flight of the Women’s Super League while off the pitch Chambers also gave birth to her first child, Harley, midway through the season.
“The ultimate aim was to make sure we were competing in WSL 1 for the forseeable future and we’ve achieved that,” Chambers told The Wokingham Paper.
“Obviously then winning the award was another bonus and having a child as well.
“Personally it’s been a fantastic year for me and for me the club is only going forward and it’s going forward in the right way.
“It’s only going to get better for us.”
She added: “When I heard the nominees of myself, Emma Hayes and Mo Marley, I was quite shocked to win the award.
“They’ve been in the top level of the women’s game for a long time and it’s just nice to even be recognised with those types of female coaches and managers.
“So to actually win the award was a surprise, but a very proud moment.”
Focus now switches to preparing Reading for the one-off ‘Spring Series’ early next year before the official WSL 1 season kicks off next September, in line with the men’s campaign.
This month has seen the club’s staff move their offices to Madejski Stadium and Chambers feels everything is on track for the lofty targets which have been set.
“It’s nice to feel a bit more integrated into the club,” said the boss.
“We have always been a massive part of the club and they’ve always supported us on and off the pitch.
“But it’s nice now to sit in the same vicinity as them and have that link with them a lot more.”
She continued: “We want to be in the Champions League in the next two to three years.
“We know that from where we were and what we’ve just achieved that we are on target for a plan that we have in place.
“But our main focus now is on next season.
“Even though we were competing on the pitch last season, we need to be winning more games and we need to be pushing higher up the league.”
The squad is already beginning to take shape with the club announcing the names of seven players who will not be staying with the club.
Key figures in the WSL 2 title winning campaign Lois Roche, Helen Ward and Laura-May
Walkley have all been released while Wales international Nia Jones, Amber Stobbs, Shelly Cox and Jade Boho Sayo have also moved on.
Dutch international defender Mandy van den Berg has arrived from Liverpool Ladies and Chambers says the club are closing in on a number of a new signings.
“There will be a lot of chop and change this season,” said the manager.
“We need to make sure we’ve got a squad that I believe is going to take us forward, win games and compete even more so with the likes of Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal.
“That’s football and we need to move on and we’ll hopefully be able to bring in new players that have competed at the highest level, are on the international scene and in WSL 1.”
With the departures of Ward, Boho Sayo, Stobbs and Jones, Melissa Fletcher remains the only striker on the books at Reading.
And Chambers admits that is the area which most needs strengthening.
“I think that’s where we fell short a little bit last season,” she said.
“I think we created enough opportunities but at that time we just didn’t have anyone that was putting them away.
“Emma Follis ended up being our top goalscorer (with six) but a striker is top priority for us and we need to make sure that we bring one in.”
She added: “We are working hard to try and get signings in by the Spring Series.
“Hopefully we can before we turnaround into January and hopefully we can announce some good signings coming into the club.