A few weeks ago, Sunderland Women announced Scottish International defender, Brianna Westrup as their fifth signing of the summer ahead of the start of the new Barclay’s Women’s Championship season.
She made an impressive debut in the 3-0 friendly win over Nottingham Forest, before scoring on the opening day of the season in the 1-1 draw with Durham.
Westrup joins Mel Reay’s squad after spending two years with Rangers in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. She captained the Glasgow side to their first league title and UEFA Womens Champions League qualification.
Prior to her stint at Rangers, Westrup had played for Newcastle United, Danish club B93, and the American collegiate team Virginia Cavaliers. She will be looking to demonstrate how far she has come as a player over the past two years upon her return to the North East.
In the statement on SAFC.com when she was signed, Westrup said she feels that she’s ready for a new challenge and was looking forward to bringing her experience into the squad, working with Reay and assistant coach Steph Libbey. She also acknowledged the philosophy and overall project at the club, particularly around the development of local young players.
✍️ #SAFCWomen are delighted to secure the signing of Scotland international defender Brianna Westrup!— Sunderland AFC Women (@SAFCWomen) August 12, 2022
Welcome to Wearside, Brianna
In her first season with the Blue Belles, Westrup earned Player of the Season and last year they went undefeated, they conceded 11 goals across the year and managing 18 clean sheets with her playing at centre-back. She also scored three goals with two assists.
Her performances led to a call-up to the Scotland national team and she picked up her first two caps against Wales and Northern Ireland in international friendlies.
Style of Play...
Westrupis an interesting player. In some regards, she is an old fashioned, no nonsense kind of defender. But, despite only being 25, she has skills and experience that add more to her game than most in her position.
Defensively, Westrup is a commanding and strong individual. As Rangers’ captain, you can see and hear her taking charge of the side, maintaining their shape, organising the defence, making sure players are being marked, and was regularly the last defender back.
She’s physical and loves a tackle, and you’ll see her getting heavily involved in the game and reading the play. She has the intelligence, maturity and experience to remain level-headed under pressure, not throwing herself recklessly into tackle or conceding silly fouls.
Westrup also tries to dominate aerial situations both defensively and offensively, often towering above her teammates and opposition in both penalty areas.
Westrup is astute and confident in her abilities, remaining calm when pressured on the ball. Rather than lump it forward or panic, she uses her frame and strength to shield the ball and waits for an opportunity to present itself. This composure and assurance bodes well for her ability to strike up a good partnership with Grace McCatty.
Offensively, Westrup assists in attacking build up and looks to create opportunities for a teammate where possible. Throughout the highlights you can see Westrup get her head up and look for either the runner or space to play the ball into.
Despite being a centre-back, Westrup contributes regularly in attack and gets rewards for her determination and work ethic in the form of goals, assists and key passes - as shown with her goal on her Sunderland debut. She boasts some impressive passing statistics, similar in some regards to Keira Walsh in her accuracy and decision making from deep positions.
Although she’s not an extraordinarily fast player, Westrup uses what speed she has well, knowing exactly when to accelerate and when to conserve her energy. One part of her game that I enjoyed watching is when she gets forward and looks for a give-and-go with a teammate.
There is always the assumption that centre-backs only score header off set pieces, but Westrup certainly has that striker’s edge and clinical ability to get a shot off at the first time of asking, as evidenced in the below video.
Almost finished with the announcement/analysis piece of new signing @briwesty7 ⚪️— Charlotte Patterson (@kirbyhazard) August 12, 2022
Hopefully out tomorrow!
But before it comes out, I just wanted to share this highlight clip I found of this wonderful goal #SAFC #SAFCWomen pic.twitter.com/aURkak6MSr
Given her experience, maturity, skill, leadership and work ethic, it would not be surprising to see her emerge a key player for Sunderland this season, one who will contribute more than just defensive stability to our efforts to climb the Championship table.
Overall, the signing of Westrup is huge for the team and a big statement of intent from the club.