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Eni Aluko’s appointment at Angel City part of NWSL’s reminder that it still has star power

New Angel City FC sporting director Eniola Aluko has admitted that the idea of being able to build a squad completely from scratch was a part of her decision to leave her position as sporting director at Aston Villa’s women’s team.

Speaking on a conference call on Thursday as her appointment was confirmed, Aluko discussed the difficulties of implementing institutional change at a more established club, with history and habits long in place – calling the chance afforded to her in Los Angeles ‘an honour’.

Aluko is one of a number of figures in women’s football heading to the United States this summer, with Ebony Salmon joining Racing Louisville and Casey Stoney rumoured to be heading to San Diego to set up a southern California rivalry with Aluko’s ACFC.

Eniola Aluko
Angel City will join the NWSL in 2022 | Angel City FC

That, combined with the efflux of American players from the WSL after just a single season – and in Alex Morgan’s case, not even that – appear to represent a reiteration of the NWSL’s status as the global hub of domestic women’s football, after a year of turbulence which saw a number of players move to England to find regular football during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aluko didn’t dwell too much on that incipient inter-league rivalry, but did speak about the inherent differences between the young NWSL clubs, who are often able to forge their own paths without a looming weight of tradition overhead, and WSL clubs tied to ancient (and, possibly not coincidentally, largely men’s-game dominated) football institutions in England.

“I don’t think many of these opportunities can really exist in football,” the former England star began, “because you’re typically dealing with clubs who have been around for hundreds of years and are steeped in tradition and ‘the way things are always done’, so trying to change and progress them can sometimes be quite difficult.

“You feel a lot of resistance because people are creatures of habit. This [Angel City job] is really an unmissable opportunity and an honour, really, to have a truly blank canvas. There are no players yet, no squad, there’s no staff yet in terms of the playing team, and I’m really honoured to be able to write that first chapter, sit down and think about what that’s going to look like.

One of England’s greatest ?@EniAlu’s resume is stacked! pic.twitter.com/hY1tS9Eg4k

— Angel City FC (@weareangelcity) May 20, 2021

“That really challenges me, but it’s also an honour, because I know these opportunities don’t really exist in football. That’s the difference between Angel City and Villa, it wasn’t necessarily a blank canvas and change was something that was quite difficult to implement at times.

“In this instance, change is embraced, it’s new, it’s fresh, it’s shaping the future. I’m excited, really really excited to have that opportunity and I really value that chance.”

Angel City FC will join the NWSL in spring 2022.

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