Midfielder Stacey Little has set herself a target of returning to action by January in a bid to give the West Ham Ladies a huge New Year boost.
The 26-year-old has been highly praised by her teammates this year for her performances which has also seen her receive two player of the match awards in seven league and cup games.
But Stacey is currently enduring a frustrating period on the sidelines after chipping a bone in her ankle and sustaining ligament damage during the Ladies draw with Tottenham Hotspur last month.
“I don’t know exactly when I’ll be returning yet and I don’t have a timescale in place but I’d love to be back by the New Year,” the midfielder told Blowing Bubbles. “I had a cast on my ankle for a week after the Spurs game to give me some pain relief and to stop me putting any weight on my ankle but now I have an air cast which allows me to walk on it.
“It has been really frustrating not being able to play because I’m injured but what’s worse is not having a realistic return date to work towards. I have been going to training and do keep asking when I can come back but at the moment I’m just working on upper body stuff.
“I thought I had been playing well this season too. I really feel I had come on leaps and bounds since the manager [Mark Saunderson] has come in and I’ve had two player of the matches. I’ve even stepped in at centre back because we’ve had injuries and I felt I didn’t do too badly.
“The other motivation for me to get back soon is that I’m not guaranteed my starting place because there is so much competition for places. For me now it’s a case of starting all over again that’s what I find frustrating. Going through pre-season again really. Someone has got my shirt now and it’s my job to get it back off them.”
She added: “I really didn’t want to come off during the Spurs game but I’ve had ankle injuries before and I knew something bad had happened. It happened after a tackle and I can remember actually screaming in pain which I never do unless I have really hurt myself.
“I think when I get back to playing again, I’ll still be putting in the same tackles. After every injury, it’s all psychological and I’m sure I will be worried about my ankle but going in for tackles is part of my game – I can’t change that about my game.”
Following the draw against Tottenham Hotspur and without Stacey, the Hammers have lost against Keynsham Town, Coventry City and Cardiff City but did get a brilliant draw against a Gillingham side performing well in the FA Women’s Premier League South.
Stacey continued: “I’m extremely disappointed to be missing out but I was really pleased that they got a point against Gillingham. When the girls are at home, I will go to support them but to travel and watch them from the sidelines is pretty hard.
“I think we’ve had a very difficult start to the season. We got through pre-season and a few players left like Rosey Sullivan and then the players who filled in got injured and our back four has been constantly changed. I think it’s really important to have a solid starting XI to gel together at the start of the season especially with the new players coming in. Regardless of all this, the team has got on with it and morale is high.”
The former Charlton Athletic player added: “My personal aims for the season have changed now with the injury. I’m just focused on getting my shirt back and playing in my position and playing my game. I know what the manager expects of me and I’m happy to fill in wherever I’m needed.
“As a team as a whole, there’s no-one in the league that should be beating us – that’s how much confidence I’ve got in our squad. We were unlucky not to get a point against Charlton and we’ve beaten Portsmouth and got a good point against Gillingham bearing in mind their start to the season. As long as the girls can kick on now, there’s no reason why we can’t be pushing into the top half of the table.”
The Ladies host Gillingham on Sunday, November 24. Kick off at 2pm at Thurrock FC, Ship Lane, Aveley, Essex, EM19 1YN.
By David Blackmore
West Ham Ladies
The latest news, views and opinion from West Ham United Ladies by Blowing Bubbles editor David Blackmore.