West Ham Women have experienced transfer highs and lows in the space of just a few days, with the news that Australia international midfielder Emily van Egmond has made her loan a permanent deal contrasted by the disappointment of England star Rachel Daly leaving the club.
The simultaneous loss of England Under-19 talent Ruby Grant, a product of the Arsenal youth system, is also a blow to the Hammers ahead of the second half of the season.
All three signed short-term deals ahead of the 2020/21 campaign, during which West Ham expected to kick on after regressing last season in their second year as a WSL club.
Daly came home on a loan deal from NWSL club Houston Dash, having spent the previous eight years in North America and emerging as one of the top club players in the United States.
Van Egmond arrived on similar terms from Orlando Pride, who experienced an exodus of players looking for game time, including Alex Morgan to Tottenham, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Grant joined the Hammers on a short-term deal after opting to defer her switch to college soccer in the United States with the legendary North Carolina Tar Heels.
Grant was never expected to stay long-term because of the place waiting for her at UNC, where many of the world’s greatest female soccer players have been developed. But she still made eight WSL appearances and will leave a void in the squad nonetheless.
Daly and Van Egmond are West Ham’s joint top scorers for the season on five goals each in all competitions and three each in the WSL. The 10 between them accounts for almost half of the 22 goals that the struggling Hammers have scored as a team all season.
To know that Van Egmond is staying came as a huge boost at a time when West Ham have spent much of the season looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone. Her permanent deal has also coincided with the appointment of new manager Olli Harder during the Christmas break and in wider terms represents that the club hopes will be a fresh chapter.
But the announcement of Daly’s departure only three days, while not unexpected given the nature of her initial deal, is bad news. The 29-year-old is a genuinely top player of international repute who brought a great amount of quality and experience to the Hammers squad. Without her, it will now be difficult for the team not to suffer their worst finish since becoming a WSL club.
She will at least continue training with the club until she departs for Houston for 2021 NWSL pre-season in February, but has already played her last game in claret and blue.
Daly scored in West Ham’s last win in the league, over Bristol City, as did Van Egmond, putting a little breathing room between them and the bottom of the table.
As things stand following a raft of postponements in what should have been the first gameweek of 2021, West Ham are 10th in the WSL. Only newly promoted Aston Villa, who unveiled a top international signing this week in Japan striker Mana Iwabuchi, and Bristol are below them.
The Hammers finished seventh when they were first promoted and eighth last season. They aren’t in absolutely immediate danger of relegation because Bristol are effectively making up the numbers at this point. But it is tight enough that an unexpected Robins win here or there, as happened this time last year to keep them up at Liverpool’s expense, still makes it a threat.