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Sheffield 160: Carla Ward

10:38 AMGoalChatter

by Aleks V | 

2017 marks the 160th anniversary of the world's first football club, Sheffield FC. Founded on October 24, 1857, the club went on to become a part of many other firsts. The founders, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, wrote the first official rules of the game. Sheffield FC's rivalry with Hallam FC became the world's first derby. They were pioneers of heading the ball. In more recent history, Sheffield FC were awarded the FIFA Order of Merit, an honor given to only one other football club, Real Madrid. Although the club currently competes in the 8th tier of English football, their popularity knows no geographic bounds.

Sheffield 160 is a bi-weekly series that goes behind the scenes of the historic club through interviews with players and staff.

This week, Aleks V chats with Sheffield FC Ladies captain Carla Ward. The midfielder, who joined the Ladies in 2010, has since become a SFC legend, contributing to five league title wins, winning multiple individual honors, and equaling a record for scoring in consecutive matches. Her 100th appearance for the club, which also included a goal, marked a triumphant return after undergoing back surgery for a herniated disk. A year later, she reached 100 goals.

With Ward in the mix, the SFC Ladies became the first team to win promotion to the FA WSL 2. 

Off the pitch, she runs Havana Stitch and Print, a company that supplies custom clothing and accessories.

Away vs Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2014. Photo: Sheffield FC via Flickr
Growing up on the Isle of Wight, playing for clubs in Bristol, Leeds, and elsewhere, did you ever think you'd end up in Sheffield?
Honestly...no. However, it's proved to be the best move I ever made. I originally joined on loan from Lincoln in the transition year from WPL to WSL and immediately felt at home. The way the club operates and the "family" atmosphere they have was something I was really impressed with.  

I read that you played a year at S.P.A. Alicante in Spain before joining Leeds. What did you learn from that?
I spent two seasons there and learnt a lot, it's a far more technical game out there and training every day I felt I learnt a huge amount. They really put a lot of time into individual work as well as collective and that really did start to show in my game. I would say those two seasons really developed me as a player.
Carla Ward vs Newcastle United, 2014. Photo: Sheffield FC via Flickr
How is Sheffield FC different from all the other teams you played for?
As I mentioned earlier, it's a club that, in my opinion, has done things very different to any other club I've been at. The management and committee are not only interested in players at football, they go out of their way to understand you personally, and I think that's a great thing. In football nowadays we know the loyalty is falling away, with money coming into the game we don't see too much of it anymore. Each year over the past 6 seasons at Sheffield with so many promotions you would expect a lot of signings, yet each year they have trusted and rewarded the players who got them there whilst adding 3/4 each season, and that's credit to them.

You've been with the Sheffield Ladies since July 2010. How has the club changed over the years? How have you changed?
You might be surprised by this answer, but I don't feel it's changed a massive amount. The philosophy has stayed the same, a lot of the same faces are still here and the attitude and mentality is still the same - can we improve, can we progress, how will we get there?! This season obviously has been a little more challenging, but I feel we've really learnt some valuable lessons and hopefully that will stand us in good stead moving forward. 
Photo: Sheffield FC via Flickr
Winning five league titles must be exciting. What was the most difficult victory?
Without question the play off final against Portsmouth. That was one of the most mentally and physically demanding games. With so much at stake, the game was so tight from start to finish. It was always going to be heart-breaking for the losing team, but for us it was definitely a day to savour, and the work of Helen Mitchell over the previous 13 years was rewarded with the big prize of joining the country's elite. 

You've had offers from several WSL clubs. Why did you decide to stay at Sheffield?
Again, it's a club that's massively close to my heart now, the ambition was always to make it to the WSL and I'm proud to be a part of that. To lead the side at this level means a lot to me, and I wouldn't want to be playing anywhere else. 

In June 2016, you became a UEFA B licensed coach. You've already coached at Benalmadena International school. What have you learned from coaching that can be applied to playing?  
I've learnt a lot in the past two years coaching. Thankfully, I've had some great people to learn off. Current first team manager Zoe Johnson has been a great mentor, along with a couple of others, so I'm thankful to have great coaches around me to learn off. No matter your age or experience, you learn every time you coach or train, and it's definitely helped me as a player.

Where do you see yourself coaching in the future?
I'm currently head coach of our scholarship education programme, and have enjoyed a good spell with our development side when I had a long term injury, so I think it's fair to say I would see myself within Sheffield FC. In what role, I'm not sure yet, but my end goal would be the top job. 

Photo: @cwardy7 via Twitter
How do you balance playing, your coaching aspirations, and running a business (Havana Stitch and Print)?
It's tough at times, and a lot of people tell me I do too much but I enjoy it all so I manage it, thankfully I work around my football so if I need to go in early or stay late sometimes that has to happen.

Compared to the men's team, the women's team have only been around since summer 2003, yet they've already made their mark in the club's history and in women's football. Do the men's and women's teams at Sheffield ever collaborate on or off the field?
Not massively. However, we have closer links with the men's team now, the first team manager shows a lot of interest in the Ladies, which is great. 

2017 marks Sheffield FC's 160th anniversary. Is there a special edition kit in the works?
I think that's a question for the club, not myself. However, the club and Havana have a very strong relationship, so if there's anything I can do I most certainly will. 
Photo: Ben Webster via Flickr

Read more on Sheffield 160 here.
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #Sheffield160.

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