Silver days for Highbury's other half
Pete Davies finds Arsenal Ladies confident of winning their own FA Cup tomorrow
Sunday 03 May 1998
Arsenal Ladies' manager, Vik Akers, may risk comparison with the sterner style of the George Graham era when he says his team's success is founded on a solid defence - but he also says: "The women's game isn't about smashing the ball all around the park. We like to get it down, and we like to play."
That approach has won them three league titles and two FA Cups in the past five years, and Highbury's first silverware this season when they won the women's League Cup on penalties against their close rivals Croydon. That rivalry is renewed tomorrow afternoon, live on Sky at 3pm when the clubs meet at Millwall in the Women's FA Cup final.
Akers expects another nail-biter. Arsenal and Croydon have been inseparable in open play this term; the previous final finished 0-0 after extra time, while their league meetings finished 2-2 and 3-3. The latter result, last Thursday night at Potters Bar, extinguished Arsenal's faint mathematical hopes of the league championship; Everton Ladies collect that honour, in contrast to the plight of Goodison's men. But with the women's game in its usual end-of-season chaos, Akers had anyway abandoned hope that his team could stage a late league charge to match Wenger's men.
Playing Croydon again tomorrow, Arsenal then have the London County Cup final on Wednesday, and their last league games - against Bradford and Doncaster - on Friday and Sunday. It is, said Akers, "Absolutely crazy. How can you expect amateurs to do that? All you're doing is giving them an opportunity to get injured. When there's only 18 league games, you'd think it could be better organised."
Croydon's run-in isn't much better; in other regards, however, the FA's commitment to the women's game looks much stronger these days. Improving publicity drew 2,500 to last season's final at Upton Park, where Millwall beat Wembley 1-0; more recently, over 5,000 watched England's tight 1- 0 loss to Germany in a World Cup qualifier.
Both tomorrow's finalists have been well represented in recent England squads; indeed, all bar one of Arsenal's likely starters have senior caps. One to watch is Faye White, a tall centre-half likened for her presence and composure to the iconic Tony Adams; 20 years old, White is a fitness instructor who opened her international account against Italy last month with (what else?) a header from a corner.
Whether Arsenal can find a way past Hope Powell's equally capable Croydon remains to be seen but, whatever the outcome, Highbury is buzzing and Akers said his women feel fully part of that. "We'll be guests when the men play at Wembley, and that's lovely."
After all, an FA Cup final is special for players of either gender - and Arsenal this season have a chance to win both of them.
Latest in Sport
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...
£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...
£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...
£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...