Little eyes big future for Ladies

West Ham United Ladies captain Stacey Little is targeting a strong end to the season following their Essex FA County Cup success.

Little capped a 5-1 final victory over Barking with an outstanding long-range strike at AFC Hornchurch on Thursday - a victory that came near the end of a difficult season in the FA Women's Premier League South.

The Hammers have struggled for consistency on and off the pitch, losing a manager and a host of players. Now, though, Little believes their trophy win will spur them on to victories in their final three league matches.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic!" said Little with a huge smile on her face. "Words cannot express how happy I after the season we have had. To get silverware after the season we have had is an amazing achievement.

"Because we don't get too many people come to see us, they see the results and think 'They aren't doing too well' but we do play some good stuff. It's just been an up and down season for us.

"We went out and our only goal was to come away with the trophy. There we no ifs and buts about it. We knew we wanted to get silverware and we've done it. The season isn't as bad as it could have been.

"We could have lost and it would have been difficult to pick ourselves up, but we have three league games left and we can push up the table. Hopefully this result will spur us on to push up a few places."

Skipper Little was cheered on by her family at Bridge Avenue, none more so than by her mother, with whom she celebrated her late goal by racing 50 yards to share a joyous hug.

"She is always the loudest in the stadium! You can always hear her shouting 'Go on Stacey!' somewhere. To score and go and celebrate with my family meant a lot to me. I would have taken a booking, to be honest!"

While results may not have been as the Ladies would have liked, Little believes the Ladies are not far away from putting things right on a regular basis - starting with Sunday's trip to title-chasing Portsmouth

"Team spirit has been the best it has been this season. Players have been unhappy not starting, and rightly so, because it's a hobby and everybody wants to play.

"I've had chats with players who wanted to leave and told them to stick with us. A lot of people have left but we needed them to stay with us until the end, and that character showed through in the final."

While 26-year-old Little is among the most-experienced players in the West Ham squad, she believes the club has a bright future with a host of talented young players emerging during a rollercoaster season.

Should the Hammers continue to improve, she hopes the club will apply for a place in the Women's Super League when it expands again in a couple of years' time.

"I don't see myself staying around for too many years because my ankles are knackered and I'm getting on a bit! It is an exciting time for women's football and hopefully we'll get the publicity and support so that we can make that next step up and when it comes round to the expansion of the Super League again, we can go for it."