We were delighted to get a chat with Reading FC Women’s Helen Ward recently (before she headed off on international duty with Wales to play in the Cyprus Cup) to ask about her footballing past and get her thoughts on how the Royals will do following their promotion to WSL 1.
Helen will be wearing Mithra MC3 Custom Shin Pads this season as Reading compete in England’s top tier and we’re very excited to say that she’ll also be contributing some of her own writing for our blog over the course of the season!
Having started her career with Watford, the club she still supports, Helen became captain of the Lady Hornets before moving on to play for Arsenal and Chelsea. In 2013 she made the move from the Blues to Reading and after a spell out of the game in which she gave birth to her daughter Emily, she returned to playing last season to help Kelly Chambers’ side to the WSL 2 title.
With 36 goals, she is Wales’ all-time top scorer and is currently representing her country in the Cyprus Cup, after which she’ll be focusing on the start of Reading’s league season which kicks off against Millwall Lionesses on March 20 at Adams Park.
Hi Helen! How is pre-season training going with Reading?
Hello! Pre season is going really well. All of the girls are fully focussed on what is set to be a huge season for the club. We have been back in since the start of December and have broken the back of the really hard graft so we can’t wait to get the season started now.
How did you get started playing football and how did joining Watford come about?
My older brother used to play and I was always tagging along and kicking a ball about on the side of his pitches. Then one day he returned home from school with an advert for Watford and suggested I went along. That was when I was about 8 or 9 and I haven’t looked back since.
As a Watford supporter how did it feel becoming captain of The Lady Hornets?
I loved my time at Watford and I owe a huge amount to the club, coaches and players I played with as I learned my trade there and maintained my love of the game through teenage years which is when a lot of players fall out of the game altogether. So to become the captain in my last season was an absolute honour. Of course having had a season ticket for the boys from the age of 9 it made it even more special. One of my favourite things is still a match day at the Vic!
What players did you admire growing up?
There weren’t really many female players that I knew about other than the ones in the older age groups at my club as women’s football wasn’t getting any publicity or attention when I was growing up. From the men’s side of things I was a huge fan of Michael Owen and the way he played. I would say that my game was pretty similar to his in that I would play off the shoulder of the last defender and liked to find space in the six yard box to get on the end of things. Nowadays I have had to adapt and add things to my game in order to play in a couple of different positions.
If you had to give one piece of advice to aspiring footballers today what would it be?
Work hard. Even when you think there are players who are technically better or supposedly more skilful than you, remember that if they don’t work hard, it won’t matter. Do everything you can for your team and enjoy it.
How has becoming a mother impacted your daily routine in terms of training and team duties?
It is a bit of a juggling act at times, especially this season where we are training up to 5 days a week but I have an incredible family around me who are just amazing and will do all they can to help me with childcare and making sure I can get to training. It is all worth it though when I see little Emily at my games cheering me on with her dad and my family.
You’re a keen writer and studying Sports Journalism, is that your long-term plan outside of football?
Yes, most definitely. I am now at an age where I have to realise that football won’t go on forever and I need to look ahead at what I can do to earn a living once I have finished playing. Journalism is something I really enjoy and I am learning all the time so I hope that at the end of my degree I will be ready to step into the big wide world of writing and broadcasting! I also have a keen interest in coaching so I have a couple of avenues I could go down.
What are your goals for this season having helped Reading get promoted to WSL 1 last season?
I think our main aim has to be to stay up. That’s not to say that is all we think we are capable of but we aren’t naïve enough to think it will be easy. There are 8 other top teams whom we will come up against and each and every one of them have some outstanding talents. We will have to be on top of our game every single week to compete. We have a good squad and we all work for one another. You just have to look at how successful Sunderland were last season to know that with the right attitude and togetherness coupled with our talents, we can really make a positive impact on WSL1.