West Ham Women’fittest ever’ says coach Beard
PUBLISHED: 14:30 01 August 2020
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West Ham United Women’s head coach Matt Beard says his team are ‘the fittest he’s ever seen them’.
The Hammers made their return to training at the club’s new state-of-the-art training facilities in early July ahead of the new season.
It has been confirmed that the new campaign will start on September 5 and Beard has already strengthed his squad with five new signings.
“I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve seen so far,” Beard told whufc.com. “The players all came back fit and it’s the fittest I have seen them during my time here, which is really positive.
“We’re slowly but surely getting through the fundamentals of our attacking and defending play. We’re happy with where we are with that, because a lot of the work we were doing last year started to come together towards what ended up being the close of last season.
“It’s only the new signings and the Academy girls that we have training with us that we need to tidy that up with. It’s been a smoother pre-season for us on that front so far, and I’m happy with where we’re at.”
West Ham finished eighth in the curtailed 2019-20 season but with Beard bringing in more quality they are expected to shoot up the table in the new campaign.
Speaking of new additions Mackenzie Arnold, Maz Pacheco, Hawa Cissoko, Katerina Svitkova and Nor Mustafa, he added: “All of the new players have been brilliant. Hawa is a great character who has settled in really well. Hawa has actually surprised me a bit because she’s even better than we were anticipating, to be honest.
“Nor is a young, strong player and, while there are a couple of things we need to tidy up with her, those will come with time and more experience. I love Nor’s personality and attitude. She wants to learn and absorb more information and is constantly asking questions.
“Svitkova is such a fantastic player and will be a brilliant signing for us. We just need to give her a little bit of time to really settle in, but she is also still young and learning as well. I think Katerina will go to the very top, because she lives and breathes football.
“Macca (Arnold) has settled in really well. She’s a very vocal goalkeeper who is great at organising and has good distribution. She’s settling into the rhythm here, as is Maz. Maz is another great, lively character. We just want to tweak one or two things with her but she’s performing well in training. Everyone is doing really, really well.”
Following his new acquisitions, Beard explained that competition for places in the starting line-up is going to be higher than ever. With quality across the squad, the battle for minutes has never been tougher.
Beard added: “The most important thing is that no one in this squad is guaranteed a starting place; from the goalkeepers to the attackers and everyone in between. That shirt is earned, on merit, from performing in training and in games.
“We’ve also got two or three youngsters working with us, from the Academy and the UEL dual careers pathway, that have really impressed me and haven’t looked out of place in our senior group, so we’re excited to see them keep developing and pushing to be included in matchday squads.
“Maisy, Mia, Angie and the two Wiktorias have been in with us and done really well during this process and I want to make sure we keep developing and producing them.”
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After spending three weeks at the new training base Beard and his staff are looking forward to developing teams in the new state-of-the-facilities.
“The facilities at Chadwell Heath are excellent and everyone, from the players to each member of the staff, is really enjoying our first pre-season working here,” he added.
“We have been working and collaborating with our friends and colleagues from the Academy to ensure that every team that uses Chadwell Heath as their base has the resources required to grow and thrive. I am looking forward to continuing working side-by-side with them in the season to come, and beyond.”
Meanwhile, Kate Longhurt says she it’s ‘great to have the ball at her feet once again’ with pre-season well underway in east London.
“I’m feeling tired to be honest but it’s been great to be back around the girls, meeting the new players and just getting back into the team environment and having the ball at my feet again,” she said.
“It feels like the fitness is slowly coming back, although we had our first mini-game on Wednesday and that was hard work! But then you think I haven’t played since the Reading game in mid-February, so it’s the way it’s going to be. But it’s nice to be back to some realm of normality.
“Obviously, outside of football, what everyone can do is still very limited, and rightly so because we need to keep everyone safe. But we’re really lucky and privileged that we can come into work every day, see each other, train and have some sort of normality in our schedule.”
Commenting on the five new additions, Longhurst, who arrived from Liverpool in 2018, said: “They’ve all come in with a lot of character. All of them have settled in really nicely and it’s really good to have fresh faces in the team that can improve us in the new season.
“Hawa is very funny. She loves to sing and dance and has just got so much character. Katerina has also really put herself out there and gotten involved with all the singing and dancing and the initiations.
“I knew Maz previously and I knew what we were going to get with her in terms of a player and a person, and she’s great. I’m still getting to know Mackenzie but the more time I spend with her, it’s clear she has a lot of character too and she is also looking a really good goalkeeper.
“Nor is a good young player for the team too. I think she will keep learning and picking things up, because she’s young, but you can see she already has so much talent and potential.”
Reflecting on last season’s efforts, the combative midfielder added: “It was so nice to win the fans’ Hammer of the Year award. It always means a lot when the supporters select you to win any honour, so it’s really nice to win that and I want to thank them so much for their votes.
“With the Players’ Player of the Year award, that’s always a special award to win as well, because that is your peers and colleagues recognising your effort and voting for you. It’s not something I have ever won before as a professional footballer. It’s nice to get that off the players.”
Heading into her third season with her childhood club, Longhurst wants to see the Irons climb even further up the table in the new campaign.
“The big thing for me is consistency, that’s something we’ve lacked in the past. We’ve had good performances where we haven’t won and bad performances when we have, but we can’t seem to find that consistency,” she said.
“To be frank, there have been times when we’ve had a couple of embarrassing results, and that’s something that we never want to experience again. It’s down to the experienced players, me included, to take responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen again this season and we do have that consistency and making sure the new players do have what it takes to play well and win games.
“We have to be better than last season and finish higher than we did last season. I think pre-season has been spot on, in terms of the work ethic and what the coaches are demanding from us, and it’s down to us to carry that into the matches when the league starts.”
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