After failing to secure a place in the Women’s Super League 2 and finishing mid-table in the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division, last season was one to forget for the West Ham Ladies.
But while many other players from other clubs were sunning themselves in warming climes, the Hammers were back in pre-season training some three weeks before their rivals with the aim of overcoming last season’s disappointment and storming to the Southern Division title this season.
Speaking ahead of the Ladies’ first league game of the season away at Charlton Athletic next Sunday, ‘keeper Toni-Anne Wayne admits the side needs to “win ugly” if they are going to stand any chance of securing some much-needed silverware.
“I think last season we got off to a good start and we were doing fine until we got to Christmas and suddenly had a lot of games called off and then picked up a few injuries,” the 30-year-old said.
“At one point last season we went eight weeks without a game and I think we lost our way a bit and our confidence. We also had quite a few young players last year and it was quite tough for the experienced players to get them up for it. But they’ve got that year experience now and hopefully what happened last season won’t happen again this season.
“One of the biggest things we need to do this season is to learn how to win ugly. Last season we either played really well and dominated teams and win or just played really poor and gave away stupid goals.
“But I think the whole experience of last season has bonded us and given us a united goal of what we want to achieve.”
Reflecting on the disappointment of missing out on the Women’s Super League 2, the shot-stopper added: “We really felt we deserved it and now we are determined to prove we did deserve it. We’ve got a great structure in place to take us forward with good youth players coming on well and recruiting good players from other clubs too.
“We need the younger players to start realising their potential and stepping up a bit and for the the experienced players to step up and show our worth when the going gets tough.”
One major change at the club over the summer was the appointment of Mark Sanderson as first team manager. The former Fulham Ladies and Crystal Palace Ladies manager was put in charge following the club’s 2013 AGM with former boss Julia Setford moving to a new role as Director of Football.
New players to sign include Cherrelle Albert from Charlton Athletic, Natalie Crinean from Gillingham Ladies and Jade Skillen from Ipswich Town Ladies.
Toni-Anne continued: “I really hope we can push on this season. The new players we have brought in have added a lot more strength in depth to our squad so if we do get a few injuries this season, we’ve got players who can come in and help continue any momentum we have.
“Natalie has come in and she is banter all the time and Cherrelle always plays with a smile on her face but the stand out new player for me is Jade. She has been a breath of fresh air at left back and is so quick.
“I also think having Lily [Mellors] and Hannah [Gowland] back from injury and playing well in pre-season does feel like we’ve got two new signings. They’ve both done really well to come back and the medical team have been fantastic and not rushed them.”
On the new management set-up at the club, the former Charlton Athletic and Gillingham player continued: “We’ve had Julia [Setford] over the last few years and she has done a fantastic job with the resources she had.
“But now we’ve got a new management team in place and it’s no longer just one person doing everything; we’ve got dedicated people doing different things from the practical stuff to the technical stuff. Obviously with the new manager we’ve got a different style and everyone has got to get used to that. He laid down how he wants to play at the beginning of pre-season and we all believe we can play this way.”
She added: “Our pre-season has gone well. The Arsenal game [lost 10-0] was a big learning curve for us. Having said that, they were halfway through their season and it was only our second game.”
And looking ahead to the forthcoming campaign, Toni-Anne concluded: “All the girls here want to win things. We would like to get promoted but that’s not an option for us this season.
“The main thing is to get a winning mentality and win everything we can now and get that trophy cabinet full of trophies so that when we put in our next bid to join the Women’s Super League, we will be in a much better position.
“We start our season with a local derby against Charlton Athletic which is a huge game for all of us. We have also got to play Lewes and Portsmouth quite early on so it is a really hard start to the season.
“But at the end of the day, if we want to win things, we have to play these games and win them. I’m confident we are ready for this campaign.”
By David Blackmore
West Ham Ladies
The latest news, views and opinion from West Ham United Ladies by Blowing Bubbles editor David Blackmore.