Leicester will be the latest club to join the ranks of the Women’s Super League next season, with the Foxes securing the 2020/21 Women’s Championship title and promotion with two games of the campaign to spare.
Leicester have only dropped seven points in the league all season and first place was clinched over the weekend thanks to a 12th consecutive win in a run stretching back to early November. The decisive victory came over London City Lionesses on Easter Sunday.
The Foxes are now mathematically out of reach of second place Durham, having won four games more than their nearest rivals and scoring nearly twice as many goals.
For Leicester, investment has been crucial to their promotion. The club was founded in 2004 but until 2020 only had informal links with the male counterparts. That changed last year when the women’s side was officially absorbed into the club after a takeover by parent company King Power and was immediately able to go fully professional in a semi-professional league.
Previous Women’s Championship finishes of seventh in 2018/19 and sixth in 2019/20 quickly became a distant memory when the Foxes found their feet in the autumn. They even reached the semi-finals of this season’s Continental Cup.
Here's an introduction to 10 of Leicester's best and most important players this season...
Tierney is an important player for Leicester at both ends of the pitch, having been poached from fellow Championship side Sheffield United last summer. She has scored three league goals from her full-back position this season and is known as a vocal player on the pitch.
Esmee De Graaf
Two-cap Netherlands international De Graaf joined Leicester in 2020 following a two-year spell on the fringes of the West Ham team in the WSL. She is still only 23 but was captain of Dutch club PEC Zwolle first before moving to England three years ago.
Leicester fan Plumptre was only 17 when she was on the bench for Notts County in the 2015 FA Cup final at Wembley and joined Leicester ahead of this season following three years playing college soccer in North America at the University of Southern California.
Position: Attacking midfield
Formerly of Manchester United, this is attacking midfielder Devlin’s second promotion from the Women’s Championship in her career. She made 16 appearances and scored five times as United stormed the second tier in 2018/19, but she didn’t stay with the club in the WSL.
Howard brings plenty of experience to the Leicester squad. The defender was born and raised in Germany, played college soccer in Florida, has played club football in the United States and Germany and turned out for Reading in the WSL. She also went to the 2019 World Cup with Scotland.
Position: Centre midfield
Like Howard, Allen also joined Leicester from Reading in 2020, having earlier also played for Birmingham and Lincoln in the WSL before that. This is actually the midfielder’s second spell at Leicester after a previous stint in the late 2000s and she is a hometown hero.
Still only a teenager, England youth international Bailey-Gayle arrived from Arsenal after making a handful of first-team appearances for the Gunners. She came into this season wanting to score more goals for Leicester than she managed in 2019/20 and has hit that target.
Liverpool-born Levell was previously a starter for Everton in the WSL, initially earning the gloves at the Toffees while still a teenager back in 2015. She wears the number 28 shirt for Leicester in memory of her late brother, who tragically died on 28 September 2015.
Paul was only 17 when she was signed by Leicester in 2019, having already made her first-team debut for Arsenal at just 16. The forward, who usually operates from a wide position, was prolific at youth level for the Gunners and has carried on scoring goals for Leicester.
Being furloughed from her job in 2020 had a silver lining for Flint because the former Manchester City youth graduate was able to train full-time as a footballer again. That has since paid off massively with Leicester this season, with 16 goals in 18 appearances.