High drama and unbelievable passion on show from the stars of 2015
What a rollercoaster! The World Cup in Canada was just brilliant. From start to finish there was quality football, high drama and unbelievable passion on show from the stars of 2015.
Once the excitement of the group stages were over, the tournament exploded. USA went from strength to strength, the Germans dragged themselves through to the semi final beating a classy French side along the way, Japan passed their way into the semi-final before stumbling through against England and the Lionesses defied belief by producing performance after performance to topple some of the powerhouses of women’s football. The US went on to thump Japan in the final and I have to say, after the way they beat Germany, I thought they were the only team who would win the final. They added to their usual physical and athletic prowess by playing fast and clinical football. It helped that they had a certain Carli Lloyd in their team who just got bigger and better throughout.
Back to England, though. They were spectacular. Even when the football they played wasn’t quite up there, the tactics and know how they showed was a credit to them and their staff. Each match they lined up to defeat the opposition of that day. Whether it was a change in personnel or tactics, or both – they stepped onto the field knowing exactly what was needed to beat their opponent. Both individually and as a team they had it nailed on. Despite the cruel, cruel way they lost out to Japan, they have returned home as heroes and what they have done for Women’s football as well as themselves should be applauded. As a Welsh international, I hope that the legacy they will leave behind will find its way into Wales and help us to produce the next group of Jayne Ludlow’s, Jess Fishlock’s, Tash Harding’s and Nicky Davies’. I know I have been inspired by them and I hope the rest of the UK has, too.
Onto Club matters now. As expected, the crowds at the weekend – especially in the FAWSL 1 were boosted by the return of the England players and the return to league action. I hope that these numbers continue for the rest of the season, despite the Premier League and Football League returning in a matter of weeks. We had a fairly good turn out down at Farnborough for our game against Durham, but we know we can get more so come on people, come on down to watch Reading FC Women in action! Numbers may have been affected by the recent departure of Fran Kirby who has moved on to Chelsea. She is a terrific talent and I am sure she will be a hit in WSL 1. I think if she feels that it is the time to move on then it’s right for all parties that an agreement was reached and we can all carry on with the rest of our seasons. Of course it is always disappointing to lose a player of Fran’s quality. She is a game changer and a match winner as we have seen plenty of times, but we have a great squad down at Reading and we are all confident we can still compete at the top and we started off our “post Fran” era with a solid 3-0 win.
We have been worked hard in our mini off season and I think we will reap the benefits in the coming weeks when we have a cluster of fixtures with the introduction of the Continental Cup campaign. It is a great opportunity for us to test ourselves against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal and it will lay down a marker for us as to where we need to be if we are to make the step up next season.
I like it when there are lots of games in a short period of time. It can be physically and mentally hard but I do love the feeling of a game day. It is important to manage yourself correctly in terms of rest and recovery and making sure that training loads aren’t too high. We are lucky in that sense as we have a group of coaches and sports scientists who plan ahead and know when we need to train hard and when we need our rest. As I have got older I have learned to listen to these types of people and I have realised it isn’t always necessary to train every day and push yourself to your limits all the time. Your body needs time to fix itself and if you don’t allow that to happen, performances will suffer and you will be more at risk of injury. A day or two off in the middle of a tough period is not going to harm your fitness, it is just going to make you feel fresher and more ready to go again when you need to.
It is an important time for me coming up for club and country. For Reading we are obviously looking to compete in two competitions and keep our run of form going to try and win the league and for Wales we are deep into preparations for the Euro qualifying campaign that’s coming up in September. We have a couple of camps and training games ahead of us but I just cannot wait to begin the group against Austria. It is going to be one hell of a test for us but I have total belief in the work Jayne is doing and absolute faith in the girls to buy into it and achieve something that has never been done before. Physically we are being asked to push to our very limits and sometimes even beyond but I know the Welsh spirit will allow us to do that. I have seen it already and come September we will have a squad ready and able to compete with the top nations in the world. Even if ability wise, some may think we aren’t there yet, we certainly aren’t going to be out run and out battled. We’ve shown it in glimpses in the past but I really believe we are at the start of something special and I can’t wait to get going. CYMRU AM BYTH!!!
Club: Reading Women FC
I started my career as an 8 year old at Watford Town Girls – which later became Watford Ladies FC. I was there until I left the club at the age of 22 having helped the team to promotion into the national Premier League for the first time in the club’s history. I went on to captain the club and leading the all time goalscoring records before moving onto Arsenal Ladies in January 2009. At arsenal I won the Premier League title twice and also reached the FA Women’s Cup Final on two occasions, winning it once in 2009. I also made several appearances in the Champions League for Arsenal in the 2009/2010 season. In the summer of 2010 I left Arsenal to join Chelsea Ladies in time for the inaugural Women’s Super League season, starting in 2011. I was at the club for three season, reaching another FA Cup Final – and scoring the opening goal in 2012 but ultimately losing out on penalties against Birmingham. Having spent three years at Chelsea, the time came where I felt I needed to move on and start a new challenge. With my former team mate and captain for both Wales and Arsenal, Jayne Ludlow, taking over at Reading, this is where I felt my new challenge lay. I joined Reading in November 2013 all set for the first Women’s Super League 2 season in 2014. As it happens, I didn’t actually make a league appearance for the Royals until March 2015 – just two FA Cup games – as I took a break from football to start a family. I have since had a baby girl (Emily) who is now my biggest fan and attends most of our home games in her very own Reading Kit!
Internationally, I made my senior Wales debut in September 2008 and have amassed 60 caps and scored 33 goals. My ultimate aim, and that of the team, is for us to qualify for our first major tournament and our eyes are set firmly on the European Finals in 2017 with qualifying beginning in Norway later this year.