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West Ham Women look to book their place at Wembley

PUBLISHED: 09:30 12 April 2019

West Ham skipper Gilly Flaherty

West Ham skipper Gilly Flaherty

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Hammers women skipper Flaherty hopes her experience counts on Sunday

Manchester City's Georgia Stanway (left) and Gilly Flaherty battle for the ball during the FA Women's Super League match The Academy Stadium, Manchester.Manchester City's Georgia Stanway (left) and Gilly Flaherty battle for the ball during the FA Women's Super League match The Academy Stadium, Manchester.

West Ham Women’s captain Gilly Flaherty has been there, done it and bought the t-shirt in her football career and she hopes that experience will tip the balance in their FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.

The 27-year-old won multiple FA Cups, Women’s Premier League and Women’s Super League crowns during her career at Arsenal and Chelsea, so can she now do it with the Hammers?

“I think people probably don’t understand the importance of what I have been through until this weekend,” said the south Londoner, who hails from Millwall.

“It is about keeping a cool, calm head. Players do get nervous and it is our biggest game of the season, probably the biggest game in the club’s history.”

Manchester CIty's Georgia Stanway (left) and West Ham United's Gilly Flaherty battle for the ball during the FA Women's Super League match The Academy Stadium, Manchester.Manchester CIty's Georgia Stanway (left) and West Ham United's Gilly Flaherty battle for the ball during the FA Women's Super League match The Academy Stadium, Manchester.

West Ham only moved into the Super League at the start of the season, but they have recruited wisely, not only with Flaherty, but also with a host of experienced players.

“You are looking at players like myself, Kate Longhurst, Jane Ross and Claire Rafferty we have to use that experience and not let it phase us,” said Gilly.

“We have to see it as just another game. Take away the emotions and just treat it as another game.

“When we got to the FA Cup final with Chelsea everybody was saying the same thing. Don’t wave at the crowd or your family and that is what we have to do on Sunday.”

Gilly has worked hard to get to where she is today in football, much of it down to her dad John.

“I was always active when I was young,” she said. “I went to a dance school, and played lots of other sports. I remember sitting watching telly one day and football was on and I said to my dad I want to learn to play football.

“First he wanted to know how serious I was, so he told me to learn how to hold the ball up on my right foot. I did it three weeks solid and then he said, learn to do it with your left foot.

“After that he took me over the park and he taught me everything, kicking the ball as far in the air as he could for me to head it, tackling, passing, everything.”

Gilly went to Millwall where she was player of the year, but it soon became clear that she needed to move if she wanted to progress.

“I remember my mum saying: ‘Gilly, you’ve gone as far as you can with Millwall’. She said it was either Arsenal or Charlton, so because Charlton were our rivals I chose Arsenal.

“There were 100 girls at the trial and only two got in and that was it then. I have always been a bit loud on and off the field and I think that stood out on the day.”

That, and the Manchester United shirt her uncle had bought her to go to the trial!

“I remember sitting in the car and thinking I have made a big mistake. I am 13 years of age at Arsena; and I have got a Man United kit on.

“They must have thought this girl has got a bit about her, a bit of front.”

The rest is history. Honours and England caps followed as well as finals at Wembley.

“It was the biggest attendance for a women’s game, but last year it was different for me as I was on the bench.

“The previopus two finals the atmosphere was incredible. That is one of the reasons why I want to get there, because I want all the girls to experience what a wonderful atmosphere it is.”

Wembley is still one step away as the Hammers must overcome Reading at Wycombe Wanderers FC in the semi on Sunday.

“I think we are going to be the underdogs, regardless of the fact we have taken four points off of them,” she said.

“What has been our biggest thing this season is that against the top sides, we have matched them. We have done better against the top sides.

“We have to get into Reading’s faces, get on top of them, win our first and second balls and when we do that we need to punish them.”

West Ham have already sold 525 tickets for the away end at the game so they will have great support going into the game.

And with players like Gilly on the field, they have the experience and determination to go through.

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