As the Ladies start their build-up to the AXA F.A. Women's Cup Final next Monday, manager Gaute Haugenes has been busy ensuring his side is ready for the challenge of taking on the country's finest as they look forward to their inaugural year in the Women's National Premier League
"The good news is that six of our players have just signed new contracts with us for another year," said Haugenes, speaking at the Club's Motspur Park training ground, "Rachel Yankey, Mary Phillip, Jody Smith, Deena Rahman, Kim Jerray-Silver and Rachel Unitt.
"This is very important for us. These are players who have been at Fulham for a while, and we can build for the future with them. We have put in a lot of effort getting them to the right level of fitness, they have all worked and trained hard and are now very prepared for the Premier League next season.
"It's important that we keep the base that we already have, perhaps we will bring-in a little fresh blood, but we have some very solid foundations in place now. These are the building blocks for our future; they are all good players, all with Premiership potential, many of them are international stars already, and to keep them in the Club is very important. It makes things much easier for the manager and coach if they have players who know how the team plays; that they know what style is used."
For most teams, moving up to the highest level presents an enormous leap in standards, but Fulham have had such an astounding record over recent years that there should be no lack of confidence going into the new Division. Haugenes makes the point however that the Whites have not been tested consistently as they've made their rapid rise to the top.
"We are already playing at the Premier standard," he said, "We have beaten many of the Premiership clubs already in the Cups, but what will be different is that we will be playing games of that quality every week. So when we play a Premier Team in the Cup now we have plenty of time to build up to the game, but next season it will be week-in, week-out, and that will be a new challenge for both the coaches and the players to adapt to that level.
"We are happy now with the size of the squad, we might perhaps get one more player for next season. But we have a very good youth set-up here at Fulham, with the Centre of Excellence, and this year we have used a lot of the players from the reserves in the first-team, and we will continue to give those young players a chance whenever we have the opportunity to do so."
Fulham play Doncaster Belles in the AXA F.A. Women's Cup Final on Monday 6th May at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park, kick off 1.00pm. Join us during the week for the best Cup Final build-up.