West Ham Ladies captain Stacey Little hopes the Hammers will be able to leave last season’s disappointments behind them when they begin their campaign under the guidance of club legend Julian Dicks.
The Ladies endured a torrid season last campaign, finishing second from bottom in the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division, and saw senior players Becky Merritt and Toni Anne Wayne and manager Mark Saunderson quit the club.
But a strong end to the campaign with a Essex County Cup victory, and the appointment of Dicks as manager, has created a positive vibe and atmosphere around the club and Little reckons the Hammers will be able to use last season’s lows to fire them up the league.
‘I think the girls who stuck with us deserved to win that trophy because we had worked hard but now we have got to forget about last season. ‘I’m just thankful there was one team worse than us in the league because we did struggle and people did jump ship when we needed them the most but now we need to focus on finishing a lot higher up the league this season.
‘The seasons that I have been here, we have always been near the top and pushing for the title. ‘Maybe winning the league is too much of an ask this season but certainly I feel like we are heading in the right direction and I’d like to see us up at that end of the table come the end of this campaign because it’s where we deserve to be.’
Little expects the club will sign a few new players this month but admitted she has been pleased with the players the Hammers have brought in and retained.
‘When you look at the core of our team, it’s strong,’ she said. ‘We’ve got a new keeper (Nikita Runnacles) who we know a lot about because we played against her enough times when she was Colchester United and she has always been a good keeper.
‘We have managed to keep Danica in defence, then there is Linds Morgan and me in the middle and we’ve been here for the past few seasons now and up top we’ve kept Kel Blanchflower too.
‘It has been difficult for us to keep players because we are competing with the Super League and if Super League teams come in for players, it’s hard to turn them down and you can’t begrudge people for going to play in the Super League because that is what everyone should be pushing for but with Julian Dicks coming in, he has and will continue to attract players to West Ham.’
As for how the club managed to recruit the Terminator. Little smiles as she recounts the story. ‘We were on the way to our final away game of last season at Portsmouth and we were talking about who would be our new manager.
‘I said I would like to ask Julian Dicks to do it, then I tweeted saying ‘Retweet if you think Julian Dicks should do it’ and I got more than 100 retweets, including Julian himself.
‘I spoke to Julian and he said he would be interested. I was taken aback that he’d even think about it and then it sort of went from there.’
And it seems the former West Ham captain, and Blowing Bubbles columnist, has already made an impact on the training ground.
‘He has been brilliant and worked us really hard. He certainly doesn’t take any rubbish from the girls and we’ve all got huge respect for him because he has played at the highest level and knows what he is talking about.
‘One thing I have enjoyed is watching him ping a ball across the training pitch because he is still so accurate – I just stand there and think wow.’
West Ham Ladies play their first league game on Sunday, August 24 away at Queens Park Rangers. Their first home game is against Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday, September 4.