Sheffield United: ‘Long serving striker has shown what it means to be a Blade’

Carla Ward, manager of Sheffield United Women, has paid tribute to Tania Marsden as the centre-forward approaches her 300th appearance for the club.
Carla Ward's side have won their last six games: Harry Marshall/SportimageCarla Ward's side have won their last six games: Harry Marshall/Sportimage
Carla Ward's side have won their last six games: Harry Marshall/Sportimage

Marsden, one of only four players retained at the beginning of the campaign, will close-in on the landmark when Millwall Lionesses visit Bramall Lane tomorrow (kick-off 5.30pm) in the final round of FA Championship competition.

Describing the long-serving striker's attitude as "simply superb", Ward explained why Marsden remains an example for her younger team mates to follow despite being an irregular starter this term.

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"Tania has filled in everywhere for us this season," Ward said. "And not once has she ever complained or moaned. That for me, the selflessness and dedication to the group, is what being a Sheffield United player is all about."

United secured a place in the revamped league - the second tier of the domestic game - last summer having impressed the governing body with their footballing and development strategies. Although moving through the levels forced Ward to overhaul her squad, Marsden is one of the few surviving members of the side which finished third in the Premier Midlands Division 12 months ago.

"It can't have been easy for Tania, going from a regular starter, but she has led by example," Ward continued. "Every single one of us respects her so much. The way Tania has approaches her football tells you all you need to know about her character."

The fact United enter their meeting with Millwall on the back of six straight wins has taught Ward plenty about the personality of Marsden's colleagues too. After winning only one of their opening four league games, something the former Sporting Plaza de Argel and Sheffield FC midfielder attributes to the step-up in class - they have now made sure of a top five finish after beating the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, who went on the reach the Super League alongside Manchester United.

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"I'm delighted for the players because, to begin with, they were putting in the performances but weren't getting the results they deserved," Ward said. "We were so angry after a couple of the matches because we'd dominated them and come away with nothing to show for it. Now, they're playing really good football and getting the results."

Carla Ward: Harry Marshall/SportimageCarla Ward: Harry Marshall/Sportimage
Carla Ward: Harry Marshall/Sportimage

"They could easily have crumbled," Ward added. "We told them to keep sticking with it and they did. About halfway through, we talked about maybe changing the way we played but decided to keep the faith and that's bringing its rewards now.

"Before our last training session I told them to forget about the first-half of the season and remember how far they've come."

Although Millwall are propping up the rest of the table after taking only five points from their last 19 outings, Chris Phillips' side did hold United to a draw in London earlier this term.

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United will be without the injured Alethea Paul, previously of Manchester City, while goalkeeper Fran Bentley, on-loan from Manchester United, is expected to be recalled due to selection issues at her parent club.

"Other than that, we should have everyone available," Ward said.

Tickets for the match are priced £1.