Rising star Robinson’s fast becoming the face of Brighton – more WSL teams should take their approach to scouting and developing top talent

The fearless 20-year-old forward’s the latest hot prospect to be nurtured by Seagulls manager Powell, but for too long top-flight clubs have not invested in star spotting or have worried a big name would upset the apple cart, writes Jessy Parker Humphreys.

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On a pitch that looked better suited to ducks than footballers, Katie Robinson was ready to swim rather than sink. The 20-year-old was making her third start this season for Brighton, having returned from last year’s loan with Championship side Charlton. At home to Chelsea last Sunday, Brighton were looking to find the unexpected outcome that has paradoxically come to be expected when these two sides meet.

As it was, Chelsea managed a 2-0 win in the end; but it was not all plain sailing for the WSL champions, thanks in part to the efforts of Robinson. Gliding past Magda Eriksson like the Chelsea captain was not there, she probably should have scored twice.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Robinson is playing for Brighton with a kind of fearlessness. She made her WSL debut back in 2019 as a 16-year-old at Bristol City, a club who just a season before had had another 16-year-old lighting up the West Country in a certain Lauren Hemp. There was no jump to super stardom for Robinson though, who instead joined Brighton on the expiry of her Bristol City deal. Yet only two months after joining, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament in training. It would be 14 months before she made another WSL appearance.

When it comes to building teams around young talent, Brighton have form. Maya Le Tissier played every single minute of the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons for them before moving to Manchester United this summer. This is not about Hope Powell throwing young players in for the sake of it, but identifying talent and developing them over an extended period of time. It is no surprise that Chelsea were keen to loan full-back Jorja Fox to Brighton this season.

It is not only Robinson who is standing out in this new-look Brighton team. The 21-year-old Norwegian forward Elisabeth Terland has started all four games for Brighton, and both Terland and Robinson are in the top 10 highest expected goals accumulators four games into the season.


Beth MeadArsenal2.1
Sam KerrChelsea1.5
Rachel DalyAston Villa1.5
Viviane AsseyiWest Ham1.5
Elisabeth TerlandBrighton1.4
Katie RobinsonBrighton1.3
Bunny ShawManchester City1.3
Natasha DowieReading1.2
Ella TooneManchester United1.1
Caitlin FoordArsenal1

For Brighton, this is hugely significant. Danielle Carter’s 2 non-penalty expected goals was their highest last season, and they now have two players who are already halfway to that total.

But what Robinson is offering Brighton also goes beyond the numbers she is putting out. When you watch her play, you see the thrust she gives this team. She is a confident player, not afraid to scream for the ball and trust herself to do the work. In a league where there is still a big gap between the investment of the top clubs and those below, it is increasingly important for sides to have players who they can rely on, and who can become the ‘face’ of these teams. That is what Robinson is already offering.

Obviously just focusing on having one star player alone is not necessarily conducive to team-building, but for too long it feels like teams have either not invested in the kind of talent identification that can bring a less well-known player into the club and make them a star, or have worried about what bringing in a big name would do to the balance of their squads.

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Yet, Aston Villa have already seen success this season in their recruitment of Rachel Daly, whilst West Ham are equally benefiting from Viviane Asseyi. Daly and Asseyi are at opposite ends of their career to Robinson, but they both offer something similar – a player who the rest of the team can look up to and who fans can be confident in. Someone who will attract other good players and get their team-mates excited.

It is not simple to have a ‘franchise’ player just land in your lap – Villa and West Ham will have put considerable financial backing into their recruitment of Daly and Asseyi – but too many teams in the WSL seem to be unwilling to consider the possibility of uncovering one. There are a myriad of options out there, whether it is youth recruitment within England or abroad. But it is about outwardly placing trust in a player to lead a team.

For Robinson, others are clearly noticing her pedigree. Brighton announced that she had been part of the reserve list for Sarina Wiegman’s last England squad, although she was not called up despite a number of injuries. At the start of the season, there were fears that with all the squad turnover, Brighton might be at risk of going down. Yet when you watch Robinson play, you can tell she is going to cause sides problems. It is still only early days, but she has all the makings of being a star.

Follow Jessy on Twitter @jessyjph

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