Ahead of Ascot United Women’s trip to Milton United this weekend in the First Round Qualifying of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup, we caught up with Coach Alix Todd to get her thoughts on the evolution of female football at Ascot and the team’s pre-match preparations.
Ascot are set to enter their tenth year competing in the Women’s FA Cup which is testament to the dedication of the off the pitch team and their commitment to developing women and girl’s football at Ascot. That development wouldn’t be in the position it finds itself today without the Head of Women’s Football, Darrel Evans and his drive to give so many the opportunity to be a part of that journey, Alix sings the praises of those involved “Competing in the FA cup is incredible, and as to the stability it speaks volumes about how much investment and support has gone into female football at Ascot. For me I think we’ve made a big statement in the last couple of seasons, actively trying to involve the younger section in our FA Cup games”.
The pathway begins to grow from strength to strength at the club and the chance to compete in a competition, that Ascot have been in for a decade, as prestigious as the FA Cup is proof to those girls that their ambitions have a place, Alix confirms this, “It’s not just having the younger girls watching us or being mascots on the day and trying to inspire them, but it’s giving them those role models and success stories too. Last season we introduced two of the younger girls to an FA Cup matchday, unfortunately they were too young still to be an active member, but they saw the changing room, kitted up, and then experienced the warmup and general atmosphere as a player.
Alix confirms the proof is in the pudding too, as this year, “We have three extremely talented under 18’s who’ve made their senior debuts and earned their spot in the squad for an FA cup fixture. So hopefully when those younger girls come see us play, they see that potential to get themselves into the FA Cup one day too!”
Ascot aren’t the only ones highlighting a momentous year, the FA confirmed earlier in the season that the prize fund would be increasing significantly, and Alix concurs, “I mean no one can be disappointed this season with the prize allocation, it’s a massive motivation and incentive to grassroots clubs. We’re extremely lucky at Ascot with the support we receive from the club and our new sponsor have been amazing too. However, that sort of money goes a really long way in ensuring we can sustain and grow as a whole club. Supporting all the teams from the young academy groups all the way up to the ladies and men’s teams”.
Looking ahead to the game with Milton United this Sunday and whether or not Alix prepares differently to a league game, “That’s a tough one, last year I think I probably did prep differently for the FA Cup, and I also think it’s dependent on who you draw and how you’ve been performing lately how you would prepare. I think this year I’m trying to not overthink it, trust the group and the work that’s been done and keep us focused on the plan.”
The FA Cup comes with a whole different kind of excitement compared with a SRWFL tie, “There’s no doubt you get an extra buzz on FA Cup weeks, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one not able to sleep Saturday or up too early Sunday”. But for Alix, it’s important not to get caught up in that anticipation too much, “The major thing for us will be to manage those heightened emotions and try to remain calm and focused on the game”.
Whilst Alix is the team Coach, she’s also part of the matchday squad and she reflects on the excitement the team are feeling ahead of the fixture, “They’re absolutely buzzing, we’ve had an intense but largely positive start to the season. Everyone’s really engaged, we’ve been extremely fortunate to attract some great players in this summer, as well as see a pathway formed allowing Under 18’s to progress into the senior squad. This increased strength in depth, and intense competition for spaces has really driven the intensity and focus up. Milton is a new opponent for most of the group too so I’m sure the unknown will add a little bit more excitement and challenge for them”.
Ascot United Women will travel to Milton United on Sunday 2nd of October in the Second Round Qualifying of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup.
Up the Yellas!