‘Let’s go out on a high this Saturday,’ says Carla Ward as Aston Villa tenure comes to an end

Aston Villa boss Carla Ward spoke to the media ahead of her side’s final game of the season against Manchester CIty at Villa Park on Saturday.

It’s set to be an emotionally charged occasion at Villa Park on Saturday, as Ward takes charge of her final game of her three-year tenure at Aston Villa.

Last term, she steered the club to their highest ever Barclays Women’s Super League finish with Rachel Daly winning the Golden Boot along the way. This term, they find themselves consolidated in 7th place.

‘Listen, if you’d have told me that after three years that I’d still have the support of the club, the players and the fans, I would have laughed at you. We have been through a lot and we are so tight knit. I will forever love the club,’ she told reporters on Thursday.

Ward then spoke about how her time at Aston Villa has been, in terms of raising the profile of the club in her three years in charge. ‘When I arrived, there was one cabin outside: in that cabin was a changing room, gym, [and a] staff office. Now we’ve got a big building here, our own gym, a player area. We’ve maximised on and off the pitch massively.’

‘We’ve attracted some of the best players in the women’s game, I am so proud of what I have achieved here, for sure.’

With several permutations and pairs of eyes on the last game of the season from far wider than just Villa and City fans, this weekend’s clash at Villa Park is going to be one for the ages.

‘In my time here, have we ever been walloped by City? No. My take is that they have to come here and win by at least four goals. We’ve always played in a way against City, do you really think I will park the bus in my last game? I want to go out on a high and attack the game.’

Ward herself has been on a manic journey since taking over at Sheffield United in January 2018. Two years at the Blades were followed by her memorable 2020/2021 stint at Birmingham City, steering the club away from relegation amid controversy surrounding the club’s handling of their women’s team off the pitch.

‘I don’t think you have time to breathe in this job. Management is changing and the demands are intense,’ Ward acknowledged. ‘Unless you have the right staffing infrastructure, it can get quite difficult. The way the women’s game is going, staffing and infrastructure needs some work or you will see more and more managers take breaks I think.’

‘I’ve also said it a number of times, players are classed as numbers and not as people and that is not okay.’

Although still very much in the title race, nothing has quite been the same for the Citizens since Khadija Shaw’s season ending injury a few weeks ago, with the Villa boss still coy on the qualities City have.

‘With Bunny [Khadija Shaw] or without her, they still have a very clear way of playing. No matter who goes in there, they are patterns don’t really change. It’s a credit to their philosophy and the way they play, which they live and breathe. They’ve got world class players so it doesn’t matter who plays.’

Carla Ward will test herself one final time as Villa boss when her side face Manchester City at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon, with kickoff at 15:00 BST.

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