Olli Harder was officially announced as the new manager of West Ham United Women on 23 December 2020 - one whole year ago!
Last season, the New Zealander helped keep the Hammers in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, working to solidify the defence and make the team much harder to beat.
This time around, his side are looking to push on and compete with some of the top sides in the division, an aspiration they have shown with wins over Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur this season.
Harder maintains that his side ‘aren’t climbing Everest in one go’, but they are making progress to one day scale such heights and challenge regularly for the top three in the league.
Speaking to whufc.com, the boss looked back over the past twelve months, discussed the latest implications of the pandemic and looked forward to the new year.
Olli, how do you reflect on where the team is now, in comparison to where it was when you arrived?
"When I arrived, the Club was in a very challenging situation with regards to their place in the table and their performance levels. My first and foremost job was to keep the team in the league, and we managed to do that.
"Now we’ve had a little bit of time to recruit and develop the players that we already had in the building, I think it’s fairly obvious to see the progress that the Club has made.
"We’re not climbing Everest in one go; we need to make sure we’re solidifying ourselves in the league. We’ve now accumulated almost as many points as we did throughout the whole of last season.
"There are lots of positives and we’re moving in the right direction. The Club has a philosophy, we’ve recruited well and there’s a good atmosphere around the place.
"We’re not far away from third place, and if we’d managed to turn a couple of those draws into wins then we might well have been in that position. From these aspects, it’s been a successful 12 months for West Ham United."
How about the team's recent form? Have you been pleased with what you've seen?
"We’re unbeaten in our last five games now, which is the second time we’ve managed to achieve that this season, so that’s really good. I believe it’s only Arsenal who have lost fewer domestic games than us, which shows how far we’ve come this season. We’re taking each game as it comes, though, but we’re certainly in a good place.
"I think teams have to spend a little bit of time to think about what they’re going to do when they come up against West Ham, because it’s a formation and system that you don’t see every day.
"It's a pretty unique system which causes real problems for teams when we are at our best, and I hope that we can continue to pick up good results alongside good performances in the second half of the season."
The league table is pretty bunched up at the moment, but the team are in amongst a group that all have their sights on competing for the top three...
"It’s nice that we’ve got so many teams that are battling it out for that third-place spot.
"I think the reality is that there’s still a huge club who haven't hit form yet, which is Manchester City. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of wins for any club to make that third-place spot theirs.
"Come the end of the season, I think you might see a bigger spread between the third-placed team and those who are challenging."
What are your aims for the New Year?
"To continue to be the best team that we possibly can be; to strive to move further up the table and be the best versions of ourselves. As I've said, we've made some strides forward in where we want to be as a Football Club, and hopefully we will continue to do that as the season goes on.
"We want to finish the season in a good position in the table, and to do that in this league we need to be winning football matches. We want to turn some of those draws that we've had into wins, so that will be our aim in the latter part of the season."
Tickets are on sale for West Ham United's next home match, as they welcome Manchester United to the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Sunday 9 January 2022.
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