SAINTS director of women's football Marieanne Spacey-Cale has outlined why she believes offering players regular football can be key to fighting off potential WSL interest in their key players.

Spacey-Cale, who has transitioned away from her coaching role at Saints this summer, accepts that WSL clubs will eventually come in for the best players in the Championship.

The 2023/24 season has seen Southampton goalkeeper Kayla Rendell receive her first senior England call-up - joining a select number of Championship players to do so.

Rendell has also been a regular for England's under-23s, alongside Molly Pike, Lucia Kendell and Ella Morris, who remains in talks with Saints over a new deal.

For Spacey-Cale, this is a sign of the depth of quality in the Championship. She believes that the division also allows these players to develop by playing consistently.

Southampton FC Women's Kayla RendellSouthampton FC Women's Kayla Rendell (Image: PA)

"There is some real talent in the Championship. We have got to lose this idea that it's the Championship and not the WSL," she told the Daily Echo.

"The WSL is a standout league because of the international players that are in there. There's some real talent in the Championship, and a lot of it is young English talent.

"They are playing regularly, they are getting game time in a tactical, physical, competitive league. They are gaining real experience in this league.

"The WSL is what it is, it's an exciting league, but the Championship is not just a catch-up league, teams will go into the WSL far better prepared than they have done before.

"That's because of the competitive element. It's because of the amount of English players in the division who want to compete at the next level."

One side effect of building a competitive division, littered with young talent, is it also becomes a hotbed for other teams to recruit from.

While Championship teams can offer players guaranteed football, for the most part, they are unable to offer a lot of things WSL sides can.

"You always have that fear because Southampton are synonymous with developing talent, boys and girls," Spacey-Cale added.

"We pride ourselves on that. However, one of the things you have to accept is that other teams will come in looking.

"We have got to back our environment and what we do with our players. You can't beat playing.

"You can train all day at the highest level, but it's the games, the decision-making under pressure, that really develops you.

"Teams can come in for the talent at any club. We need to back that the league is competitive. They are playing. That is something that needs to be looked at."

CEO Phil Parsons (left) and Marieanne Spacey-Cale (right)CEO Phil Parsons (left) and Marieanne Spacey-Cale (right) 

In her new role as director of women's football, Spacey-Cale will continue to play a role in Southampton's player recruitment this summer.

She will work alongside Dean Gibson, Saints Women and under-21 recruitment manager, as they look to add more quality this summer.

"Dean is heavily invested and working really hard at the moment, Spacey-Cale concluded. "We are still working out ways of working.

"I will still be involved in recruitment. We want the new manager to be in as soon as possible to they can play a role in that too.

"You always have to look for progression and consistency of performances. The last thing you want is to have players with potential not playing.

"You have to look at it to ensure the players that will be good enough are still playing. You have to look at yourself.

"There is a churn (of players leaving and joining), but that is the nature of football. What you don't want to do is stop people from having the opportunity to play at the best level they can.

"You want to bring people in who will enhance what you have done in the previous season.

"When we talk about maturity, it's not always about age, it's about experience of games and maturity in tough situations.

"People could say we need to sign older players, but we need experienced players with maturity who can help us and our players reach the next level and get better."