Sheffield United: '˜Playing at our new home can help us build a real legacy'
Carla Ward believes moving to the Olympic Legacy Park will prove the catalyst for a major growth in the popularity of Sheffield United Women and help her team achieve even better results.
Ward's side play their second match at the new ground, part of a major development in Attercliffe, against their counterparts from Lewes on SundayÂ (kick-off 1pm).
United have made an encouraging start to the new FA Championship season, recording back to back victories over Crystal Palace and Leicester City before succumbing 2-0 to London Bees last weekend.Â
The visit of John Donoghue's team comes three weeks after Bex Rayner's late strike saw United overcome City in their first outingÂ at OLP and, reflecting upon that fixture, Ward said: "The atmosphere inside there was absolutely brilliant that day and I know the players really fed-off that.
"There were 500 people inside there but, every time we went forward or put some pressure on, it sounded like 5,000 and that really made a difference."
"We all loved being there and I honestly think it's going to be the start of something really big," Ward, United's manager, added. "It was better for the players and, because of the noise, I think it was a better experience for the fans too. That's vitally important to keep them coming through the turnstiles and also to encourage even more to come with them."
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OLP is being developed by United's co-owner Kevin McCabe, a major supporter of Ward's squad and whose backing helped them earn a place in the revamped competition. Having brought them officially under the Bramall Lane umbrella, McCabe also instigated the decision to dispatch both male and female players to club events.
Lewes have also established a reputation for progressive thinking and last season launched 'Equality FC'; a scheme designed to ensure their men and women are paid equal amounts.
"Having our own identifiable home at OLP is really important for a whole host of reasons," Ward said. 'A lot of the sides we play against don't have their own grounds but this will be our home."
Rayner is a doubt for the clash with Lewes, after suffering an injury at The Hive last weekend. Izzy Ford, aged 16, could deputise for the former Doncaster Belles and England under-20 centre-forward.