And now for something completely different.
As mentioned, this is going to be a blog about the women’s game as a whole not just West Ham Women.
June 2019 is going to be a big month. The Women’s World Cup in France and England have a good chance of at least equaling 2015’s effort. But back in August 2018 where our story begins, we still had the task of qualifying ahead and we were close. We had won 5 games and drawn 1. It was almost a dead cert but we had some dragons to slay first.
I had company this time on my travels. Someone who understands my plight more than most.
Crick is one of my Manchester City buddies who lives down South. Any home game is as much of an epic trek for her as Rush Green is for me. We are quite often faced with the same dilemmas. Do I go to the football or do I eat this week?! Spoiler: football wins ?
Wales had the home advantage and boy did they use it.
Small capacity ground? Check
Small Away allocation? Check
Welsh crowd filled with several male voice choirs? Chec … well not quite
On the other hand, as Crick pointed out, whoever wins the game, they win the national anthem off.
We didn’t stop chanting and cheering. We couldn’t stop. If Wales were loud, we had to be louder.
CMON ON ENG-ER-LAND!
We didn’t have long to wait as Nikita Parris came thundering down the wing. Greenwood crossed, her shot bouncing off the goal and Parris smashed it home.
OFFSIDE. But we we’re rattling them. Except we weren’t. We did very little that half except some heart-stopping antics from goalkeeper, KB.
‘What is she doing? Why is she half way down the pitch?’
‘It makes me nervous when goalkeepers don’t stay in their area. Wales are good on the counter.’
Still at half-time we were still dead-locked. 0-0.
Nervy play from England. Until at the 57th minute – BANG!! Duggan scored off a brilliant pass from Kirby
BANG !! Bronze basically planting the ball onto Jill Scott’s nose. 2-0. The goal was followed by Scott running over to the bench to celebrate with Carly Telford, whose mum had recently passed.
BANG!! Parris finally got her goal after a blocked shot from Jodie Taylor.
3 goals in 12 mins.
After each goal you felt the intensity from England shift a little. They had a comfortable three goal cushion with only half an hour to go.
But for Wales there was something else in their demeanour as theor World Cup dream started to slip out of reach. Panic. Fear. Desperation.
Most opposing fans love that in the ‘enemy’.
I was recently trying to explain football rivalry to someone. ‘It’s tribal. You pick a side and you all hate each other for 90 mins.’
But this game felt different. It felt weighted, odd even, slightly bittersweet. It hit home when Natasha Harding was subbed off at the 89th minute, trying to hide her tears as she took her place on the bench.
England had done it and I was so ecstatic we were going to France. But still my heart broke for Wales. There was that little part of me that wasn’t so happy that Goliath had beaten David.
The game highlighted for me the inequalities in the Women’s game. Not just between that and the Men’s game. The inequalities that can exist from one team to the next. Wales is not a professional side. I mean in the legal sense of the word not in terms of their behaviour. Most of their squad had to get permission from their full-time jobs to play the qualifiers.
None of the Welsh players had their names on the back of their shirts. So the line up could change with out additional cost.
We may be making strides in the women’s game but we have a lot to do and a way to go.
AFTER THE MATCH
Whilst we waited by the hoardings for the team to do their lap of honour, Crick nudges me.
‘Who’s that on the pitch over there? I feel like I know her’
‘Yeah it’s Mary Earps, ya muppet’
‘Alright! I just didn’t recognise her in a tracksuit! She looked different!’
‘Yeah, but it is an England one.’
Mary Earps is one of the sweetest people I’ve met, you guys, and she has a wicked sense of humour. She was thoroughly amused at Crick’s mistaken identity feat. Mary Earps story. Crick very much was not. I am a bit of a git ( Note from Crick, I am a lot of a git.)
After a quick conversation about goalkeeping and Crick pestering about one England goal-keeper in particular, Mary noticed my West Ham shirt.
‘Hey bet you’re glad they are in the Super League now?!’
I nodded and gestured to the name on the back. ‘Yup. Already went to see them play Arsenal. It took 16 hours. Worth it.’
Mary looked slightly stunned
‘You’re insane. Like you could’ve gone to America in that time, but you didn’t. You could’ve gone to Harry Potter World. I would’ve gone there.
Random Mary Earps Trivia: She’s a Slytherin.
Rachel Daly’s another one with a wicked sense of humour. When a fan asked her for a photo but couldn’t quite remember her name.
‘You forgot my name, didn’t you?’
The fan shrugged her apology.
‘Don’t worry it happens to me on the Daly.’ Pause. ‘See what I did there?!’
With Daly was Millie Bright (Chelsea Defender) who had been great this game and Crick’s ultimate dilemma. In recent years there hasn’t been a bigger rivalry then Chelsea and Manchester City in my honest opinion. In the women’s game at least.
A small voice next to me blurted out ‘Great game, Millie’
Millie smiled and nodded her thanks and ran upfield to find an England flag.
Crick turned me with a strange look on her face. ‘Did I just compliment Millie Bright?’
Me, laughing now, ‘Yup. Yup, you did.’
Crick looked quite disgusted with herself after that. Like I said folks, it’s tribal ?.
There are just so many moments which made this game something special.
Like when Lucy Bronze practically stripped herself to give fans a piece of the night. She ended up wandering around bootless in a warm up vest and shorts.
When a fan asked Jordan for her boots, she looked mortally offended and declined so abruptly that lately whenever I don’t want to do something, I (over)use the following phrase: ‘In the immortal words of Jordan Nobbs, no!’
I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to Jill Scott for rudely abandoning her mid-conversation when Jodie Taylor walked by.
In our not so brilliant defence, as Scotty plays for City, we actually have spoken to her a few times, whereas Jodie Taylor plays in Seattle now, so we had to take the opportunity when it struck. I said it wasn’t a brilliant defence.
But we did get a good picture with a very smiley and lovely Jodie Taylor. So a slight win. Maybe
Despite not wanting the game to end, we were being kicked out by one of Rodney Parade’s friendly stewards so we slowly started to head back to Cardiff.
Nearing the station, I felt about in my pocket for my tickets. It was empty. That wasn’t right.
I started to panic. I had had my hotel key and railcard in there as well as my train tickets. This was not good. How I was gonna get home?!
Thank God Crick was there to calm me down. Come on, let’s retrace our steps.
We wandered slowly back through Newport with me cursing my life and Crick being slightly more practical (and a lot more distracted by puppies – okay it was really cute).
We headed back to the stadium and talked our way back inside where we encountered our friendly steward again.
‘Thought I got rid of you lot.’ He smiled.
‘Well, idiot features here lost her railcard and hotel key’ I said, grimacing at my own stupidity.
I was lucky to find the hotel key and railcard in the ground, but no rail tickets. I consoled myself that at l least I could get home now. Sort of.
Finally we headed back to our hotel room. Crick was getting ready for our night out when I looked at the bedside cabinet.
‘I am a fricking idiot!’
I had left my tickets in the room, knowing I might lose them. So I smartly left them in the room so they wouldn’t fall out my pocket but stupidly forgot I had done it.
I am officially not allowed to travel on my own anymore.
Next time we return to our scheduled programming and talk about Yeovil at home and I have parental supervision