When West Ham United Ladies take to the field for Sunday's huge FA Cup fifth round tie away to Arsenal, there will be one player with extra incentive reason for wanting to do well.
Carly Roache is this week set to reach the landmark of 100 appearances for the Hammers - no mean feat for someone who is still only 19. The defender will move on to the 99-game mark with the mouthwatering FA Cup tie away to the European champions on Sunday afternoon and then reach the century at home to the same opposition in London County Cup action on Thursday night.
To add extra spice, Roache is a former Gunner - having come through the youth ranks at the perennial English double winners. Her contribution since moving east has been immense with manager Tony Marshall set to make her captain for the trip to Boreham Wood this weekend. "Carly has been a revelation in central defence this season and is up there for player of the year."
Roache admitted that "Arsenal was a great education for me" but she knew early on that her career would be better served at West Ham United. "I wanted first-team football and I would have had to replace seasoned internationals to have stood any chance of breaking through." A former pupil of Castle View School in Canvey, along with Tony Stokes, she has fond memories of her time in red and white.
She said: "As I have always said it was the ideal grounding and there are still two girls at the club who were in the same U16 centre of excellence team as me, Lianne Sanderson and Gemma Davison, and have both featured in Arsenal's first team. I am hoping that they will both be involved in at least one of the games. Most of the other girls moved on like myself to get first-team football."
Arsenal are the overwhelming favourites for Sunday's contest, and Roache knows it will be tough for the team to earn a quarter-final place. "We are not trying to kid anyone otherwise, Arsenal are the best side in Europe and we are expecting to be given a bit of a footballing lesson," she said. "We will be taking to the pitch with our heads held up high and looking to show what we can do against the best.
"It is important that we do not capitulate and come out of the game with pride. We are a young team that Tony Marshall is building for the future and whatever happens in the two games we are determined to learn from them." For details of getting to Boreham Wood for Sunday's game, click here while Thursday's home match will be held, as usual, at Harlow Town FC.