West Ham United Ladies kick off an exciting new era on Sunday when they begin their 2017/18 FA Women’s Premier League campaign against Gillingham.
Greg De Carnys’ team travel to Priestfield in confident mood following a thrilling 4-3 win over Millwall Lionesses on Sunday in their final pre-season friendly, and expectations are high given the restructuring and injection of investment earlier this year.
With Hammers star Michail Antonio and vice-chairman Karren Brady on board as official ambassadors, and Jack Sullivan appointed as Managing Director, supported by General Manager Karen Ray, the game marks the first competitive step in the five-year plan to reach the FA Women’s Super League.
New signing Amber Stobbs, who signed from WSL 1 side Everton earlier in the summer, is hugely excited about the start of the new season and believes everything is in place to ensure a successful future.
“Everyone is buzzing,” she says. “A lot of hard work has gone into getting us ready and we’re happy that it’s coming to a start now.
“There is a real togetherness among the squad. I’ve played for a few different clubs and there have always been different characters and personalities who perhaps don’t get on, but I don’t see that here.
“We have a very strong team spirit and that environment comes from the top to the bottom. Everyone is buying into the five-year plan and there is real excitement about what we can achieve this season.
“Pre-season has gone well,” she adds. “We’ve definitely seen some areas we need to improve on, but that is what pre-season is about.
“We have had some good results in our friendly matches and the training has been building up really well. The sessions have been planned very diligently and everyone is on board with the improvements that Karen and Greg have made.
“We have some tough competition coming up but we are ready for that and looking forward to the season ahead.”
Everyone is buzzing. A lot of hard work has gone into getting us ready and we’re happy that it’s coming to a start now
Stobbs, who was appointed vice-captain earlier this month in support of skipper Amy Cooper, had already made a big impression on her new team-mates having initially spent some time at the Club last year, but admits that the ambition has moved up a gear since then.
“I trained with the team before Christmas, and I can already see how much things have improved,” she says.
“It’s a great environment here, the staff, coaches and players are all on the same wavelength and everyone has embraced the journey that we are now on.
“It’s a very professional set-up – we get sent videos and presentations after training and matches to show how we can improve and what we need to work on.
“It’s about focusing on the small steps that will allow us to make the big steps in the long-term.”
Gillingham Ladies v West Ham United Ladies, Sunday 20 August 2017, kick-off 2pm, Priestfield.