Spurs Women’s baffling injury silences

Working out which Spurs Women players are injured has been turning the club’s fans into detectives. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Other clubs provide detailed updates. For instance, following the press conference with Liverpool manager, Matt Beard, Emma Saunders of the BBC reported that: “Leanne Kiernan is “at least 10 weeks away” from a return. Had several set-backs in her injury return. They had further scans on top of an injection to try settle the heel/ankle. Natasha Dowie 3-4 weeks away. 5 players to miss Arsenal, could be 7.”

Meanwhile Aston Villa don’t just rely on the press reporting on these things but use social media to provide updates direct to fans on specific players, their injuries, and expected return.

In contrast, at Spurs we are treated to a mix of omission and vagueness. Leaving fans to dig through the words said and unsaid in press conferences or post-match interviews to make sense of what might be happening.

Unspecified ‘knocks’

Jessica Naz, Spurs 21 year-old winger who has scored twice this season, went off injured and clearly in pain during a game against Everton in mid-December. There was no comment at the time and no injury details provided in the two and a half months since. In her 19th January press conference Rehanne Skinner commented that “Jess has obviously had an injury that’s kept her out last week, and she’s been partially training today. So we’ll see where she is by the weekend.” It looked like good news when Naz’s name appeared on the team-sheet a few days later, on the 25th of January. But that was a mirage, as she did not make it to the bench, rather she was seen watching the game from the third floor viewing area at Brisbane Road alongside other injured players. In the almost two months since then, there have been occasional comments about Naz ‘needing a little longer’. Meanwhile her contract has been renewed. This is ostensibly unconnected but, in an information vacuum, the sparse content provided is imagined to connect. In this case we might speculate whether it is only a coincidence that alongside Naz, Ria Percival (out with an ACL) is the only player whose contract has yet been renewed this year. As a general note, Spurs should be commended for consistently renewing contracts to cover players’ periods of recovery from long-term injury. Given the relative low wages and precarity of the women’s game this is vital. But in this case, and without information to the contrary we can only hope that two (the extent of Naz’s injury and her contract renewal) are unconnected.

Jessica Naz has been absent since December ’22 with an unspecified injury

Bethany England is sufficiently high profile, that her absence is hard to ignore. Which is perhaps why, unusually for Spurs, her injury was quietly flagged in advance of her first missed game. Rehanne Skinner in the pre-Reading press conference made what the uninitiated might have heard as an innocuous comment about England having ‘got a knock’ in the game two weeks previously against Manchester United. This lead fans to re-examine the interview England gave at the end of that game in which she had criticised the refereeing, commenting that ‘someone could have got injured’. Did she? Was it bad? Whatever it was she was not on the team list for Reading. Then, in the week between the Reading and Manchester City games, Spurs’ social media released a series of ‘training videos’ that appeared designed to show England fully involved and fully fit. But in her press conference Skinner said they were waiting to see how she was, and lo and behold, come Sunday England’s name was again missing from the squad list. What the ‘knock’ was and how serious it is remains a mystery.

Bethany England has been out since sustaining ‘a knock’ against Manchester United in Feb ’23

We have had even less detail about Shelina Zadorsky, Spurs’ Captain. Zadorsky played for Canada in the February International break. On her return, she was on the bench, as an unused substitute, against Reading. Perhaps, fans speculated, she was a bit jet lagged and after all, we have a lot of centre backs. But then she was out of the squad that went to Manchester City. There has been no information provided in any press conferences about Zadorsky. There was, however, an elliptical statement in the run-up to the City game, that those more practiced at unpicking the nuances of these things, picked up on. Skinner said that there had been issues with ‘players’ (plural) returning from international duty. As one of only two international players to not have had minutes against Reading (three if we include the suspended Eveliina Summanen), Zadorsky seemed most likely to be one of those. Perhaps goalkeeper, Becky Spencer, is another. She has not started a game since Christmas having started most of Spurs’ pre-Christmas games, when Tinni Korpela the team’s other goalkeeper had had an injury of some description (an injury that we, of course, only found out about retrospectively, when Rehanne Skinner announced that Korpela was ‘back’ in January). Spencer spent the international break with Jamaica playing in the Cup of Nations.

Meanwhile during the International Break we also discovered Cho So Hyun was injured when she did not join up with South Korea, and instead won plaudits for buying herself and 100 Korean fans tickets to attend their games (she has since returned against Manchester City). Even more circuitously, information about Chioma Ubogagu being injured came when Ubogagu met a fan who tweeted that he hoped that she would be back from injury soon (she returned against Reading).

This lack of information is not new. Earlier in the year Kerys Harrop was out for almost six months with a back injury which meant she missed all the pre-season and early season games. This was again not ever announced by the club, but Kerys discussed it when she appeared on the N17 Women podcast.

In other words, providing little to no information on injuries appears to be club policy, or at least a choice that it makes over and again.

Unspecified Absences

As well as the injuries described above there have been notable instances of first team players simply vanishing for extended periods without the club providing information.

Going back to last season, Chioma Ubogagu disappeared from the squad in January 2022. There was no acknowledgement of her absence, and no information provided until May 2022, when it was announced that this was because she had received a ban (that ran until October 2022) due to a failed drug test caused by prescription acne medicine erroneously prescribed by a US doctor. As she has outlined, this was an uncomfortable situation for the player and the club had an interest in protecting her. But it left fans in the dark for months, with no information to go on at a time when the club was short of attacking firepower.

Ramona Petzelberger last played in the North London Derby in September ’22

In what we can speculate may also be a ‘personal’ situation of some sort, Ramona Petzelberger has done a similar vanishing act. She joined Spurs in the summer, played in several pre-Season games and then played 25 minutes in the September North London Derby. Following that she has not been seen. The club has made no comment.

Does it matter?  

On the one hand, fans do not need to know everything about a team and certainly we do not need to know the finer details of players’ personal lives.

But at a time when the focus is on growing the women’s game, and when Spurs, in common with other clubs, widely promote new players signing, the club’s persistent obfuscation and occasional low-level disinformation, when those same players become unavailable produces distance, bordering on distrust, among the fandom.

One might speculate that Spurs’ management believes that it gives the team a competitive advantage if opposing managers do not know who will play. One could suggest that current results suggest this is not making much of a difference. Additionally, since in most cases injuries mean that less strong players start or there are fewer options to change things off the bench, if anything not knowing this in advance may mean opponents over-prepare.

Maybe it is rather that the club believe that fans who think that their favourite player ‘might’ play are more likely to attend or watch games. The problem here is that should this be effective, and fans attend to see a player, when this player does not play they may feel tricked.

Kit Graham returned in February ’23 after 15 months out. She was one of 4 Spurs players out with ACL injuries this season.

Spurs have been exceptionally unfortunate with respect to the number of injuries sustained by key players over the last year (as discussed previously). Indeed, arguably, the ACL injuries to Kit Graham (another erratically reported injury, hopefully now fully back) and Ria Percival (still out) meant that Spurs arguably lost players who had been as key to the club’s 2021-22 successes as Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema were to Arsenal’s. If Bethany England is now out it will be a seismic blow, given her immediate impact and the fanfare that came with her transfer. But this does not become less of a blow for not hearing about it.

There may, of course, be instances, where it is in the player’s interests to provide less detail and ‘family/personal circumstances’ has been used for these elsewhere, including in men’s football, but the vast majority of times, providing information about injuries is innocuous.

Moreover, in the context of Spurs’ current run of form, and increasingly vocal fan frustration, a policy of transparency with respect to player availability and future prognosis, perhaps one modelled on Aston Villa’s communications, would increase trust, and perhaps mean supporters are more sympathetic to the constraints faced by the manager and club.

Information on the squad, including injury updates when these are forthcoming are to this website in the  Current Squad tab.

Rachel Lara Cohen @spurswomenblog

5 Replies to “Spurs Women’s baffling injury silences”

  1. Another great report Rachel and some insight into an area I have been concerned about for months – what is going on?
    We have Simon Brazil (ACL) out for the season, No Petzelberger so maybe her contract has been rescinded, and she has left the camp and why Mana was loaned in. No Naz – No Zadorsky and No Beth. Percival on the light training schedule and why we constantly have only a bench of 5 (now with 1-2 academy players.
    Yes, what is going on? and opens up the bigger question … Why did RS not do more in the January window, especially since we were losing games so easily and we have a very weak left wing.
    Loyal fans need to be kept up to date and I do not accept the other camps will get to know … we are not that good that it matters that much, but those buying tickets have the right to know.
    I’m not convinced our current management has a handle on things and are trying to get through this season on the cheap hoping …. yes hoping we do not shoot ourselved in the foot and get relegated.
    Karen Hill was sacked for 3 draws and 4 losses on the bike … RS has 8 losses on the bike and still here …. this question needs to be asked next.


  2. Hmm – I think I heard a Rachel in the last part of RS question time – has to be you? Yes .. but you didnt ask her if she felt her job was on the line!
    Anyhow, as usual, she managed to skirt around all the questions with this belief that she is on a long term club development course of action (although her contract only allows one more season). Does this course include going backwards to the fringe of relegation? Hmm
    I do however believe we will gain enough points to stave off relegation in the 3 home games against Reading Brighton and/or Leicester. I have however not seen enough evidence of this performance development that she mentions to even see our team gaining anything from the other 6 games (many of which are away) and against much stronger opposition … including Liverpool this weekend unless Beth plays.
    In the video it was good to see some missing faces back into training namely Simon Brazil and Naz … but still no Petzelberger (nor Percival) in any cameos. Maybe she has indeed left or had a baby? – who knows. I did not see Korps neither so maybe Spencer is back this weekend … well that means we will lose before we even start. We always do when she plays.


  3. So where is Shelina ? … another injury we do not know about like Petzelberger. The Bartrip Turner combination is clearly not working and we need her back


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