Olli Harder believes the familiarity offers his West Ham players invaluable reassurance as they face resurgent Manchester City for the third time this season. Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final takes place at Dagenham & Redbridge’s Chigwell Construction Stadium, where Harder’s team will play their home matches.
“If you’ve climbed a mountain before, the idea of doing it again becomes psychologically easier,” Harder said. “We beat City first, we know where we can hurt them and they know it too.
Although only fifteen days ago West Ham lost 2-0 at home to Gareth Taylor’s side in the women’s Super League, Harder choreographed victory by the same scoreline in Manchester last October. “The city is talented, but there is a lot to be optimistic about,” the New Zealander said. “We hope to write a fantastic story about an underdog who will reach the FA Cup final. It’s about seizing the opportunity to counterattack and be more clinical than two weeks ago. If we can do that, defend for our lives. and showing the West Ham spirit is all possible. “
Pact tactics, talent and tenacity play their part in determining who gets to Wembley, but emotional control also seems to play a key role. At the end of a week in which Northern Ireland women’s manager Kenny Shiels said he was happy that “emotional” footballers are likely to concede several goals in quick succession, gender differences dominated the conversation. before the semifinals.
After his team’s 5-0 defeat to England in Belfast on Tuesday, Shiels argued that “women are more emotional than men … so they don’t take a goal that goes in very well”. Wednesday apologized amid outrage, and on Thursday, Northern Ireland players had issued a collective statement saying “We are standing by our manager”. Harder and Taylor were prepared for questions about the issue.
“I’m sure there’s a context behind those comments,” said Harder, who is seventh in three places and 11 points behind City in the WSL. “Research shows that there are more goal groups in women’s football, but I have no idea why.
“I think men hide their emotions much better than women, but all men are emotional. Whenever there is a disappointment, there will be an emotional context. I don’t think it’s necessarily a case of women who they have more emotions than men. ” Taylor showed similar nuances. “I know Kenny, he worked in Tranmere when he was a player here and he’s a good man,” the city manager said. “I think he was probably just talking a little emotionally himself. His fairly early excuse was important and the right thing to do.
“But the situation he was talking about happens in football, regardless of gender. It’s an emotional game, players make mistakes, do good things, lack confidence. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, it’s a passionate game.”
Taylor, a former City and Wales striker, coached youth teams at the club’s academy before crossing the Etihad Stadium Campus to take charge of the senior women. “There are some subtle differences [between the genders in football]”What strikes me the most is that girls do the most boring technical things ever, as their lives depend on it. I think it’s amazing – like the application and effort of the women’s teams.
“There are many times we’ve been 4-0 or 5-0 late in games and the opposition doesn’t stop. They always come out and commit. You have to take your hat off. It just doesn’t happen in the game. At this stage in a men’s team, the opposition is on holiday and you have gained the right to control the game and do less work, but the women’s teams do not give up at all.
A similar resilience has served his side well in a season that started sadly but ends brilliantly. Weakened by a series of injuries to key personnel including England’s Lucy Bronze and Ellie Roebuck, City struggled badly last autumn, but are now strong contenders for the Champions League qualification. A once powerful outcry over Taylor’s dismissal has evaporated for so long.
“I think if, in some really tough moments before this season, someone had offered us the position we’re in now, we’d take it,” said a manager who is discussing giving Chloe Kelly her first start to the season after The recovery of the English wing from a serious knee injury suffered last May. “We’re going in the right direction, but I’m expecting a bit of cat and tactical mouse at West Ham. There will be times in the semi-finals where we suffer.”