Jess Fishlock leaves Bristol Academy to team up with Seattle Reign
BRISTOL Academy have lost a key player with inspirational midfielder Jess Fishlock moving to America.
The 26-year-old Wales international skipper, pictured, is to join Seattle Reign – the club which recently recruited manager Laura Harvey from Arsenal.
Fishlock, who spent a couple of winter months on loan with Australian club Melbourne Victory, had originally agreed a contract extension to remain at the Stoke Gifford Stadium for the next FA Women's Super League season.
But Vixens boss Mark Sampson acknowledged the opportunity to play professionally in the newly-launched National Women's Soccer League was too good for Fishlock to turn down.
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"It's probably the best league in the world and we aren't in a position to be able to offer Jess a professional contract – and we are not the sort of club to stand in anyone's way when an offer like that comes along," said Sampson.
"The way Jess played for us last season, it was obvious there was going to be interest in her. But she turned down offers from a number of other English clubs – and some of the top ones in Europe – because she wanted to stay with us.
"I know she has made the decision with a heavy heart because she can see the potential at our club and what we are trying to achieve. She has been very much a part of it.
"But this is a chance to develop her career by moving to another country and playing with and against some of the best players in the world, and we all wish her all the best for the future."
Fishlock, who has 67 caps and 22 goals for Wales, spent the last two seasons with the Academy in her second stint at the club.
She had previously been part of the AZ Alkmaar side which won two successive Dutch Eredivisie titles.
She was named the Players' Player of the Year in the WSL last season, and won similar club awards after being voted for by both her team-mates and Vixens supporters.
Fishlock said: "I'd like to thank everyone at Bristol Academy for everything they've done for me. I've grown as a player and achieved a lot, and America has one of the world's best leagues.
"I see it as a big challenge because I will be playing with and against the best players in the world, and that's the way to develop and get better and better."
Seattle boss Harvey said: "Jess is a great player who I know a lot about from her time in the English league. She is used to playing overseas, having played in Holland and Australia, and I feel her experience and ability will be crucial to the development of this team.
"She is versatile and can play anywhere in midfield and also in the front line."