Harding: New Year, new adventures

A fairy-tail ending wasn’t meant to be…Tash Harding reflects on an exciting conclusion to the 2013 WSL season, and what 2014 will bring for Bristol Academy.

After already playing four games against top teams, playing Donny Belles didn’t seem all too difficult. We were all drained as players but the confidence and belief that we could win it was stronger than ever. We had just taken a a point away to Arsenal, and even then I had had a chance to win the game, if it wasn’t for that bloody left foot (which I now believe is only for standing on)! However, this kept the momentum going for the last game of five in 13 days.

Tash in action for Bristol Academy

Tash in action for Bristol Academy

That amazing come back…

On the way to the game, the bus was pretty quiet and I think everyone was just physically drained. It wasn’t a normal Bristol bus where every one is laughing and chatting etc, it was quite subdued to say the least.

The warm up was good and everyone seemed up for the game but there was still a sense of tiredness. The first half started in our favour with us having a few chances and their goalkeeper making a few great saves. But something wasn’t clicking for us, and as a team, we couldn’t seem to play the football that got us into the position we were in prior to the game.

Suddenly we found ourselves behind. We had just attacked and the keeper gathered the ball, put it on the floor to kick long. I just remember watching the ball go over my head and the midfield, get flicked on and Little was there to finish a basic route one tactic. But it was oh so effective because they scored another two within minutes. We all stopped and looked at the board and thought ‘are really 3-0 down in 35 minutes?!’ We were in shock.

In the dressing room at half time, it was silent. But there was no panic at all on anyone’s face. If anything, it was a few words from the manager and the silence. But a silence filled with determination. Walking out for the second half, we knew we needed an early goal, and we got it.

Then we had to wait a bit longer for the second, but that was the spark that fuelled the ruthlessness, the willingness to win and do whatever it takes for each other. When that fourth goal went in, we completely believed we can win this title. To come back from 3-0 down was an achievement many of us hadn’t done. And we did it the way we have all season – by playing cut throat attacking football.

Goal number four caps the comeback at Doncaster

Goal number four caps the comeback at Doncaster

After the game the changing room was quiet and no one could believe what just happened because it felt like that 45 minutes went in a flash. It was a great end to a gruelling schedule and everyone couldn’t wait to rest.

The decider…

With Arsenal deducted points, we knew it was between us and Liverpool for the title. Liverpool were the team to beat and we knew for us to win we had to play our best. We travelled up on the day, and everyone felt fresh even though there were internationals played a few days prior. We were quietly confident.

We knew if we went in 0-0 at half time it would work more in our favour, but we conceded a penalty. First blow to Liverpool. We were on the back foot for the majority of that half and credit to Liverpool they played like they were already proven champions.

Second half was much of the same but we created a few more chances. But we conceded another and by then we knew we were beaten. After the game there were tears and emotions were high, but looking back on it now not every Bristol Academy player gave their all in that game. If everyone worked at 100% I think it would have been a different story and a different blog. But it just wasn’t meant to be. Liverpool deserved to win the title.

New England boss Mark Sampson

New England boss Mark Sampson

The next step…

As everyone is aware, England has a new manager. I think this shows how hard everyone at Bristol worked and how well everyone did last season. I know a manager is an integral part of any team, but it was the girls that came back from 0-3 down to win 4-3, it was the girls that played amazing football and reached the FA Cup by beating Everton and Lincoln at Ashton Gate, it was the girls that dug in deep and went down fighting against Liverpool.

I am honoured to have worked with the manager, but even more proud of playing alongside those girls, going down to a title decider and earning CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FOOTBALL!

So am I happy with last season? On a scale of 1-10, I’d say 15!!

What next…? Watch this space ;)!

Tash

Katie Sherwood – The teachings of a footballing mum

When Kieran originally asked me would I be interested in writing a blog my initial reaction was why me? I am really not that interesting! But when he explained the show would be interested in me writing about my day-to-day life to share my story of my individual commitment and sacrifices I make in order to play the game, I was intrigued.

Katie scores from the penalty spot in FA Cup Final shoot-out in 2012

Katie scores from the penalty spot in FA Cup Final shoot-out

Being a female footballer, regardless of whether you are professional, semi-professional or amateur, can consume every aspect of your life – it can be around the clock commitment in order to be successful…….throw in a full time job and a young family to look after and it can be one big juggling act.

My life in a nutshell…I have 2 beautiful children, Alfie is six and Isabella is three months old and my family is my everything. On top of my mummy and housewife duties I work full time as a primary school teacher and I thoroughly love my job. My husband also works full time as a football development officer and is also manager of Cardiff City Ladies, so to say our lives are pretty full on is an understatement. (No time whatsoever for a social life)

The question I am often asked is why do I do it? And how do I do it? Unfortunately, football is not my job, it is just my passion, and like many other female footballers around the country, the endless sacrifices that I and many others make is just for the pure love of the game. whether that is getting up at 5am to hit the gym before work, or travelling a four hour round trip to make one training session or taking unpaid leave from work to be able to make a mid-week fixture (yep I’ve done them all).

These are just a few of the endless personal sacrifices women footballers have to make on a daily basis (I just cram about 4 or 5 into one day!!!!) And how do I do it? The simple answer is that I have a great support team with my husband and family!! (Plus I sacrifice my sleep/ I consume large amounts of caffeine hourly)

Family time isn't just for off the pitch

Family time isn’t just for off the pitch

I’ve been out of the game now for nearly 18 months after recently having baby number two. Having previously played at Bristol Academy and Chelsea Ladies with the honour of playing in two consecutive FA Cup finals, I am ready to get my boots back on and I am starting a new chapter having recently signed for Yeovil Ladies in WSL2.

Being only able to spectate for the past 18 months has made me hungrier than ever to get playing again. My decision to sign for Yeovil was an easy one, the club have a great, ambitious and realistic vision for the next few years, with a very professional approach, and the clubs family feel was very refreshing. I think WSL 2 is going to be a very competitive league with all teams strengthening their squads with new signings; I cannot wait to get started! The hard part and the realistic side to the story is….will I be able to juggle it all.

On that note, with the FAWSL season vastly approaching, my blog every month will just give a little insight into my weekly routine and my balancing of all the goings on in my life whilst in season playing the game so many of us are in love with.

Hwyl Fawr. photo (2)

KT