Author Topic: A MARVEL ON MERSEYSIDE…AND PERFECTION AT PRIDE PARK  (Read 882 times)

Offline John

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A MARVEL ON MERSEYSIDE…AND PERFECTION AT PRIDE PARK
« on: June 20, 2009, 11:50:53 PM »
The following article appeared in June's edition of The Official Arsenal Magazine

The script could have been written no better – even if the man behind Arsenal Ladies’ latest stunning success had to be content to keep in touch with proceedings via telephone.  To truly crown Vic Akers’ final season as Arsenal Ladies manager – by his own admission, the toughest of his tenure – the Gunners had to travel to their title rivals, Everton, on the last day of the season and come back with all three points.  And so it was that, 20 years after the men’s team stunned the football world with their title win at nearby Anfield, Scottish forward Suzanne Grant emphatically volleyed home the only goal against a home side that had been hotly tipped to end Arsenal’s five-year stranglehold on the title – with wild celebrations ensuing at the final whistle.

It was the 11th league title of Vic’s tenure – but the man himself was not present, leaving the side in the capable hands of assistant Tony Gervaise while he carried out his matchday duties for Arsene Wenger’s outfit during their game with Chelsea.  He had, though, enjoyed a last hurrah in the dugout six days previously as the Gunners secured a tenth FA Women’s Cup – beating Sunderland 2-1 at Pride Park with goals from Katie Chapman and Kim Little.  These two quickfire successes ensured that a challenging season resulted in a memorable domestic treble – and we caught up with a few of the protagonists for their thoughts on an emotional and, ultimately, hugely satisfying campaign.

THE MANAGER…

After 22 seasons in charge of team matters at Arsenal Ladies, Vic Akers moves to an upstairs capacity next season – bringing the curtain down on a glittering and trophy-studded managerial career.

“It was tense, very tense.  I was on the phone from 2pm onwards and had every opportunity to get information.  After 13 minutes I heard that we’d scored and I remember thinking ‘this could be too early’.  Obviously I had reports that we were hanging on a bit and we were under lots of pressure.  The girls were still hanging in there and it just developed.

“This one is massive.  It’s probably the highlight of what has been a marvellous 22 years for us.  To go there and win under those difficult circumstances is one of our greatest achievements.  I think the way this one had to be won has been the most pleasing.  I think teams have avoided playing us until we have lost players.  They obviously thought that was their best chance at winning the league.  But sadly for them it has turned out to their detriment.  It has been an outstanding achievement for our girls to have gone there, played and hung on.”

THE YOUNG HOPE…

Seventeen year-old Gilly Flaherty is a highly promising defender who made a first-team position her own towards the end of the season.

“It feels really good to win the league.  Obviously it’s been a hard year for us with losing players and it was tough all the way through, but we’ve finally won it and it feels sweet.

“I think it was good that we got a goal early on to set the pace.  To stay at 1-0 for the rest of the game was tough and nerve-wracking but we managed to pull through and that shows the team sprit we’ve got, to prove we’re tough enough to do it.  We’ve won everything that we’ve been in and that makes it so sweet as well – I’m so proud of all the girls, we’ve worked so hard for it and we deserve it.”

THE MATCHWINNER…

Suzanne Grant signed for the Gunners from Hibernian in February – and scored a number of important goals in the league and cup run-ins, culminating in that winner against Everton.

“It was absolutely amazing, but everybody worked hard for the team.  It wasn’t the prettiest of games at Everton but we’ve done our job and won the league, so I’m delighted.

“I just remember that the ball dropped to me, I took a touch and it hit the back of the net – it was a great moment.  We defend from front to back but the two central defenders were outstanding – we defended really well and that won us the game.

“It’s great to win the league in any competition, in Scotland as well, but to do so in what is not even my first full season with Arsenal is amazing.”

THE ABSENT FRIEND

Prolific striker Julie Fleeting missed the second half of the season through pregnancy; her first child is due in around two months.

“I’m so delighted that the girls did it at Everton.  It was certainly hard not being there, and waiting for the phone call to tell me how we’d done, but everyone has done fantastically this season.  We’ve lost a few players, but shown what a great squad we’ve got – all credit must go to Vic and the girls who’ve come in, because they’ve really got it together and done the Club proud.  I’m delighted too for Suzanne Grant, who’s a close friend of mine – she’s come down from Hibs and scored a few vital goals, not just the title-winner.

“Everyone who knows Arsenal knows how vital Vic has been for us – and he’s been extremely good to me with my situation, living in Scotland, which really helped me settle into the team.  It’s the right decision for him, but we will miss him.

“As for me, my baby is due in July – everything is going well at the moment and I’m keeping myself fit.  When the medics give me the all clear to resume playing, I look forward to returning to Arsenal.”

THE SENIOR PRO…

Ciara Grant has, at 31, seen it all during 12 seasons with the Gunners – and put in some colossal performances at the back to see Arsenal Ladies home to their ‘treble’.

“For us to go out and win the treble in Vic’s last year sends him off on a bit of a high.  I know we were probably favourites to win the FA Cup but it was still quite a hard game and a good battle.  Since we lost a few players we’ve perhaps struggled a bit scoring goals but we managed to get the two, and play well in parts.

“But of all the games, the Everton one has to be the best win for a long time.  We knew we had to win the game – and I think perhaps Everton were a little overconfident after beating us 3-0 at our place.  Tony got us fired up before the game, we scored early and defended with our lives to see it through.

“The celebrations at the end of the game were probably the biggest I can remember, and I couldn’t stop smiling all the way home.  When we came back we saw Vic, who was obviously delighted – and, again we’re just thrilled that we could do it for him.”

Source: June edition of The Official Arsenal Magazine.
YOU NEVER WIN OR LOSE AS AN INDIVIDUAL, YOU NEVER WIN OR LOSE AS A TEAM - WE ALL WIN OR LOSE TOGETHER AS A CLUB

Offline twmcat

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Re: A MARVEL ON MERSEYSIDE…AND PERFECTION AT PRIDE PARK
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2009, 12:06:11 AM »
I know there have been quite a few posts about the game at Everton (well, Widnes) but I agree there - it was about the most tense game I've been to  :o
The pic is Tytti Porkka of Finland - I actually took it myself, but have lost all my pics and have no more :(

shlj

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Re: A MARVEL ON MERSEYSIDE…AND PERFECTION AT PRIDE PARK
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2009, 10:17:50 AM »
The Chelsea away one was as tense to be honest because the some of the girls arrived very late and the goal came quite late as well. Both were quite similar, 2 hard fought wins with resilience and power more than skills.

Offline Gooner

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Re: A MARVEL ON MERSEYSIDE…AND PERFECTION AT PRIDE PARK
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2009, 01:09:54 PM »
Interesting views expressed by both Vic and Ciara.

THE MANAGER…

I think teams have avoided playing us until we have lost players.  They obviously thought that was their best chance at winning the league.  But sadly for them it has turned out to their detriment.

CIARA GRANT

“But of all the games, the Everton one has to be the best win for a long time.  We knew we had to win the game – and I think perhaps Everton were a little overconfident after beating us 3-0 at our place.