Sheffield United prepare to try and complete mission impossible
On paper, it appears an almost impossible task for a team whose budget is around a tenth of the visitors.
But Carla Ward, manager of Sheffield United Women, is convinced her side can cause Manchester City a headache when the two clubs meet at the Proact Stadium tomorrow night. (Kick-off 7.30pm).
“For us, no matter who we are facing, we always want to compete and try and take the game to them,” Ward said, ahead of the Continental Cup tie. “We want to go out there and try and compete against the elite in the country.
“We know what we’re up against. This is a free hit for us, there’s no point in dressing it up.
“I’m just going to tell the girls to go out there and express themselves, show what they can do, and enjoy the occasion.”
Ward’s side advanced to the quarter-finals after topping Group A; finishing a point above Aston Villa and two ahead of Super League outfit Liverpool after winning three and drawing one of their five matches.
City, the reigning holders, beat Arsenal on penalties in last season’s showpiece; the fixture was staged, amid great fanfare, in front of a near 2,500 crowd at Bramall Lane.
“Our attitude to what we do won’t change,” Ward insisted, revealing Sam Tierney will miss the clash with City due to concussion. “Even though they’re a team full of internationals, we’ll approach it with the same mindset.”
“Being without Sam is a huge loss though,” she added. “There’s no point in dressing that up because I think she’s been brilliant for us of late. The last time she played, as far as I was concerned, she was the best player on the park.”
United began preparing for the match following Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by leaders Aston Villa in the FA Women’s Championship. Ward, whose side remained second as a result, will also be without new signings Mollie Green and Rhema Lord-Mears.
City’s own plans for the trip to Chesterfield, where United are now based after a move to the Olympic Legacy Park was shelved following a recent power struggle behind the scenes, have not been without incident.
Nick Cushing, Ward’s counterpart in the North-West, recently announced he is quitting his position to take up the role of assistant manager at New York City, where former Celtic chief Ronnie Deila has just taken charge. The MLS franchise is owned by the City Football Group.
“It’s been an emotional few days,” England international Steph Houghton said when news of Cushing’s impending departure was first announced.
“Being at City for six years and having only one manager in Nick, knowing he’s not going to be with us for the rest of the season.”
“I’m absolutely delighted for him and his family,” she added. “Good things happen to good people and he really deserves it for all the hard work he’s done with us on and off the pitch.”
Ward has also made a huge impact in her own role at United, overcoming a series of challenges to secure a fifth placed finish last term before transforming them into promotion contenders in only their second season as a second tier club.
Green and Lord-Mears, recruited from Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers respectively, could make their full United debuts at Coventry United this weekend.
“We’ve got a huge job coming up against City,” Ward said. “So we’ll need the crowd to really give us their backing and get behind us.”