Carla Ward (Aston Villa Manager) smiling after the pre-season friendly football match between Aston Villa and Everton at Banks's Stadium in Walsall, England - Image by Natalie Mincher/Sports Press Photo

‘Don’t underestimate how big this game is’ says Aston Villa boss Ward ahead of derby

Ahead of Aston Villa’s Women’s Football Weekend ’21 showdown against Birmingham City, head coach Carla Ward has highlighted just how important she feels this Second City Derby is going to be.

Ward’s Villans travel to St Andrews to face Birmingham City in the first Second City derby of the season this afternoon.

Speaking in her pre-match press-conference, in which FAWSL Full-Time were present, Ward emphasised “It’s massive. I’ve reiterated to the girls all week that Villa have never beaten Blues in the WSL. I think it’s massively important that changes, it’s a chance to rewrite history.

“It’s huge, not just because it’s a derby but because it then opens up a 10-point gap which would be massive at this point in the season.”

Villa will look to build on last week’s performance against Chelsea in which despite losing 1-0, they showed just how far the club have come, only three months into their second fully professional season. Ward’s side kept the Barclays Women’s Super League’s reigning champions to just one goal, something that no other team has done this season, and almost managed to snatch a point at the death, denied only by a vital save from Ann-Katrin Berger.

Looking back at the fixture, Ward said “It was an unbelievable performance. We were actually slightly disappointed with the result, which sounds crazy when you are playing against the English champions and a team I admire greatly, one of the best teams in Europe right now.

“But like I said to (the players), we need to use that, an element of that performance and take it into this week. With Stevie G (Gerrard) coming to the club, there’s a massive buzz around right now so what better way to make sure we do our part on Sunday”

Despite having spent a year on the other side of the divide, leading Birmingham City to safety last season against the odds, Ward doesn’t feel that her experience at Blues will give her an edge coming into this weekend’s fixture.

“You know what it’s like in a derby, I’d love to say yes but realistically no,” she said.

“In the derby, form goes out the window, history sometimes goes out the window and I think on the day, it’s who wants it more nine times out of 10 and who’s prepared. It’s also who emotionally deals with the occasion, we have got to make sure that from a mental point of view that we control moments in the game and control the occasion.”

Reminiscing on her time at Blues, it is clearly one which Ward is extremely grateful for and she is wary of writing off the WSL veterans, despite them not having won for a year in the league.

She said “Birmingham, as much as they are at the foot of the table, they are improving, they are a team that will be difficult to break down and no doubt they’ll want to step onto us. We have to go into it with discipline and full focus, if we don’t, Blues can take advantage, they have some exceptional players.

“I’ll always be thankful to Blues because they gave me an opportunity to get myself in the WSL. I had some challenging times that ultimately made me a far better, stronger manager.

“I’m sure the fans will be looking forward to giving me a bit of stick, I’ve seen it on social media all week and quite enjoy it.”

The Barclays FA Women’s Super League fixture between Birmingham City and Aston Villa kicks-off at 2pm. Fans can buy tickets at St Andrews between 10am-12pm this morning.

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