"We need to start looking after players physically, mentally and emotionally" says Ward after successive international breaks
Aston Villa boss Carla Ward questions the impact the World Cup and Nations League will have on international players as the domestic league kicks off
30 September 2023
Carla Ward spoke to the media on Friday morning ahead of Aston Villa’s opening Women’s Super League game of the season against Manchester United on Sunday.
Ward was first asked about the concerns about the kit (which has been getting very wet during matches). She responded by saying they have similar concerns as the men have but it is over to the club and Castore (kit manufacture) to deal with as her focus is on the weekend. She added the club have been superb with communication about how they can help the players, what will make them feel better and there is a genuine care from the club.
Looking ahead to the match on Sunday, Ward feels her side are ready after a strange pre-season. “The girls have been sensational since they have been back in” Ward added. As a group they are looking forward to playing in front of a record attendance (12,000) at Villa Park. She thinks it will be a tight, technical game of football and the two sides that will go for it.
In terms of team news for the Manchester United match, Kenza Dali is unavailable after coming back from the World Cup with a knock and not trained since then (still a couple of weeks away), whilst Maz Pacheco is a major doubt after picking up a bug. Apart from those two, everyone is fit and available.
Asked about what would be seen as success this season after finishing fifth in the WSL and reaching the FA Cup semi-finals last season, Ward said success was retaining key players and players that were on loan signing permanently as well as adding a few extra into the squad. Ward said apart from that, success would be “continuing what we have been building, and trying to better what we did last season (not necessarily top four) and try to close the gap”.
Speaking about new signing Ebony Salmon, Ward said along with other signings it gives them different attacking options which is something they didn’t have last season. “Ebony’s pace and power is phenomenal and to have that added is massive to us” the Villa manager continued. “I have never seen pace like it”, and “there is no-one in the WSL like her” Ward added.
Ward thinks Sunday’s opponents Manchester United will be up their challenging again after an unbelievable 22/23 season when they finished runners-up in the WSL and FA Cup. She thinks they have had one of the best transfer windows in the WSL with a lot of money spent and quality coming in.
With the World Cup not finishing until five weeks ago and another international break last week, Ward doesn’t think that those who played in each have had a long enough break. She added we need to start looking after players physically, mentally and emotionally. The Villa manager also said there are plans to give those who have been playing lots of international football some rest during the season (Conti Cup weeks).
When speaking about Maddy Cusack who tragically passed away last week, Ward, who had managed Cusack at Sheffield United, got emotional saying she had an “unbelievable relationship” with her and she was an “exceptional human being”.
Another new Villa signing over the summer is Dutch goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar, and Ward thinks “she has the potential to be the best in the world”. Ward continued by saying they have been tracking her since the Euro’s last year but she is young still and they will have to take care and look after her as she develops in the WSL.
Ward said she would love to sale out home games at the Bescot Stadium this season as the place bounces when there are more than 3,000 in attendance. “The fans have been unbelievable” and Ward hopes they can put on a show at Villa Park on Sunday.
Kirsty Hanson signed permanently from Manchester United over the summer after being on loan last season, and Ward commented that it was all about if United could replace her which they did. Ward thinks the transfer works for all parties and Hanson fits what Villa want to do.
Ward thinks another new signing Adriana Leon “needs to be told what she is actually good at and reminding what she is good at”. Ward said they will look after her and hopefully get the best out of her.
Asked about fine margins in games, and Ward thinks Villa has more squad depth this season which should help, and they are more used to the elite level of game management.
Ward noted it is important Villa keep developing youngsters. “Laura Brown is a sensational young player, someone I have high hopes for” Ward said and “we see her playing a huge part this season”.
Rachel Corsie is the Villans captain this season and Ward was asked why. “She is one of the greatest leaders you will meet, she is a natural leader who understands the game, experienced, I can rely on, trust and will lead the team” the Villa manager concluded.
Aston Villa v Manchester United is live on BBC Two (12:30 kick off BST) on Sunday in the UK (check local listings/FA Player around on the world).