Carla Ward: Villa Ready For “Biggest Game Of The Season”

Impetus’ Holly Wright was in Carla Ward‘s media conference today and heard from the Aston Villa head coach ahead of tomorrow’s game against West Ham United (14/10/22).

Above: Carla Ward spoke to the media today about her pride in how successful her new staffing appointments in the summer have influenced the team’s start to the campaign. Photo: Aston Villa Women.

Despite facing Manchester City on the opening day of the season, Aston Villa head coach Carla Ward describes tomorrow’s encounter against West Ham United as “the biggest game of the season so far.”

Reflecting on Hammers head coach Paul Konchesky’s business over the summer and the start they have made to the season, Ward said: “We know it’s going to be tough. Make no bones about it. He’s lost a couple of games to Man United and Chelsea, but I thought for large spells they were very good in those games. Then beating Everton. Yes, Everton didn’t have a good season last year but let’s be honest, Everton are a really good side so realistically it’s going to be tough.”

The former Sheffield United player had a lot of praise for the man in the opposition dugout and how the style of football he has got West Ham playing. “If you look at Paul Konchesky as a player throughout his career and everything he stands for, I think it’s a team that replicates what he is about; wholehearted, front footed and aggressive. I think they are a really good side. They’ve got a lot of quality and really experienced players in that group, and I think he’s actually done a really good job.”

Regardless of only playing two games so far this season, one being that outstanding victory over Manchester City, it is clear the progression Ward has made with her squad since the summer not just in the style of football they are playing but the staff she has bought in to push the club in the right direction going forward.

“I think we slightly adapted the way we wanted to play over the summer. We specifically bought in some coaches that fitted with what we wanted to do and how we wanted to implement that. I think that’s made a massive difference. The qualities that some of the new staff have come in with and the new ideas they bring are exceptional.

“We ran through a really clear process in the summer. We knew what we wanted, and I knew what we were wanting to go after. I knew exactly what I needed to do to get there, and we bought in those people that can deliver that. So that’s played a massive part.”

Above: So much to smile about for Aston Villa so far this season. Photo: Aston Villa Women.

The Barclays WSL manager of the month has dedicated her trophy to the work that has gone on behind the scenes at the club and the effort the players have put in over the closed season but insists the hard work doesn’t stop there.

“I’m not going to lie, I didn’t want it (the award) because of the curse after it and because everyone talks about so I was unsure whether I wanted it or not. It’s a testament to the staff and the players. The staff say it’s cliche to say it’s all about them, but it really is because the reality is we brought in some exceptional staff in the summer, and they’ve improved so many different things. They’ve brought a lot to the table, and it’s helped massively. The amount of work that has gone in from all the staff and the players is exceptional so this one is for them.”

Along with the manager of the month award, Aston Villa also claimed the player of the month award in Rachel Daly as the debate continues around whether she is a full-back or a striker, but Ward continues to stick her neck on the line insisting that she is 100% a striker. “She’s not a defender. She’s a centre-forward. 100% She should be absolutely knocking on the door of the international squad to start up front. She’s currently the highest-scoring English player in the WSL. 100% I think you should watch this space. Surely there will be an opportunity for her.”

With three goals in two games and one assist, Daly is already proving to be one of the best summer signings but it’s her character and professionalism that has specifically caught her head coach’s as she was full of admiration for the former Houston Dash player.

Above: Rachel Daly with her Player of the Month Award. Photo: Aston Villa Women.

“Yeah, she’s been brilliant. She’s honestly brilliant on and off the pitch. I could not speak any higher of her in terms of what she does for the youngsters. I’ve never seen a player come in and get all the youngsters around her. They are all in order naturally because of what she’s achieved but actually what she does for them is exceptional. She taken them all under her wing.

“She will arrive with them. She will get after them. She will make sure that they don’t have a single minute or a second off. She sets a standard that is unbelievably high, but she’s brilliant. She really is. She’s hungry, but she’s a winner. It’s not all rosy, trust me. She’s ready to get after people. It’s great. We are delighted that she’s coming in the building with us”

Although the limelight is currently on Daly, head coach Ward was quick to pick out another stand-out player who has been influential in the Villans’ unbeaten start to their WSL campaign but perhaps hasn’t got the recognition of some of the forward players in the squad.

“Everyone keeps talking about the front players naturally because we have been able to find the back of the net this season. Everyone’s talking about Kirsty (Hanson), about Kenza (Dali) about Rach not many people are talking about Dan(ielle Turner), and I think she’s been absolutely sensational.

“She’s a solid eight out of ten every single week. For me, she hasn’t put a foot wrong. She’s been unbelievable but again not just on the pitch but her professionalism off the pitch. You can see why she’s been a captain and a leader for so many years. We are delighted to have her, but I’m delighted that she has actually been acknowledged because she’s been absolutely sensational and deserves to be spoken about.”

Above: Danielle Turner – her head coach Carla Ward was full of praise for her efforts this season so far. Photo: Aston Villa Women.

After a picture that Ward herself posted on Instagram earlier this week, there has been a lot of questions around the fitness of some players due to illness whilst others remain sidelined through injury. “I think my picture on Instagram gave it away. We have had a bit of a bug that’s rifled through the squad this week, which has not been ideal. It’s affected four or five players. Some will be assessed this morning and then other we will have to make a judgment call on whether they’re going to be fit enough to make the game tomorrow. It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Ward explained

The Aston Villa head coach feels like there is a curse on her team and the international break as, yet another player was added to her injury list with this one looking to be on a longer time frame. “The good old international break has haunted us again. Emily Gielnik whilst playing for Australia has done her calf. She is set to be out until probably around Christmas time, which again isn’t ideal. Then obviously we still got Remi Allen, Simone Magil, Meaghan Sargeant, all out. So yeah, fun times.”

With seven months left on Ward’s contract, speculations will no doubt be going around on what her future holds, but plans have already been put in place to ensure her project at the Midlands club continues. “Everyone knows I want to be here for a long, long time. I’ve come for the long term. I’ve come here for a project, so I’m sure it will be something that will be discussed soon but for me, I’m happy here. I want to be here for a long time. I want to continue this project all being well.”

Aston Villa hope they can avenge last season’s 2-1 defeat to the East London club as they look to continue their impressive start to the 2022/23 WSL campaign at the Bescot Stadium. Saturday’s afternoon’s match will be broadcast live on the FA Player with kick-off at 12.30pm.

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