Olli Harder: Team news, Tottenham Hotspur and fine margins
West Ham United are set to play their first fixture in over a month when they travel to face London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Barclays FA Women's Super League on Sunday.
The Hammers’ anticipated first game of 2022 against Manchester United was postponed last week, meaning it will be a London derby that marks their first fixture of the new calendar year.
Manager Olli Harder is hoping his side can recapture their momentum from prior to the festive break when they travel to North London, having recorded a memorable first league win over Tottenham in the reverse fixture in November.
Speaking at a wide-ranging pre-match press conference, Harder discussed his excitement at returning to the grass, his side’s injury news, plus his thoughts on Tottenham and new signing Emma Snerle...
We’re eagerly anticipating getting back to playing.
We’re excited to be back and obviously we have a tough January ahead.
Obviously it’s been a tricky situation for us. We had numerous players struck down with COVID and as anyone can attest to, when players come back from those situations, it's always a bit more challenging.
We're looking okay, but we still have some progress to make and obviously that just takes time.
In terms of team news, we still have Adriana Leon out [after November’s surgery on a foot fracture].
She's still progressing with their rehab and, hopefully, we'll see her back on the pitch later in the season.
I think progress is like anything – it’s that cliché: people need time to do their jobs.
[Tottenham Hotspur Women Head Coach] Rehanne Skinner has obviously shown the quality that she has as a coach and managed to progress Tottenham to where they are at the moment. It’s been a good progression for them.
It’s been a solid progression for us too, and it's only good for the league. We've talked about it numerous times: in order for this to be the best league in the world, then clubs like ourselves and clubs like Tottenham need to be stepping up. Slowly but surely we're doing that.
Their positioning in the table [third] says that Tottenham are setting a benchmark, but I think with regards to other aspects, there are a lot of teams in and around there.
There's only a handful of points between third place and ninth place, really.
From a league table position, it's the benchmark. But with regards to the team itself, I think all teams are setting their own benchmarks and moving forward.
Emma Snerle has obviously been with us now for a week-and-a-half and is settling in well.
It’s always a difficult transition but she's come along well and is training well, so we're pleased with her progress.
She’s obviously a young, exciting player, very creative, and brings a lot of ‘oomph’ into the attack – let’s use that word! She’s just somebody who really carries the ball well, distributes it well, and obviously really adds some penetration to the attack.
We're expecting her to be in and around the goal, expecting her to create some assists for us and just to add another threat level with regards to deepening our squad.
With regards to the rest of the transfer window, we’ll see how that window looks.
There are always options for us, so if it's the right person at the right time, and is the right fit, then it would be a conversation.
At the moment, we're obviously just making sure that we're putting ourselves in the best possible position with the players that we have.
It’s all about fine margins in this league.
We're in a position where I think there was only Arsenal who had lost fewer games than us domestically before Christmas.
It's a case of us just turning a few draws into wins. We've been in good positions and haven't seen out games. That comes with a level of maturity. If we’d managed to do that, we would probably be ahead of Tottenham, to be honest.
It’s small margins and I think we'll see that now throughout the rest of the season. It’ll be fine details and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
For us, it's about setting goals weekly.
Our first goal is to pick up as many points as we can against Tottenham, and then look forward from there.
We’re not looking over our shoulders at the moment, which is a nice place to be, and that obviously shows a lot of progression. For us, it's a case of taking it one game at a time and we'll see where we end up at the end of the season.
We are a team with ambition and we would like to continue to push so that we find ourselves in the best position.