Helen Ward (Reading & Wales)
Helen Ward was born on the 26th April 1986, in the London Borough of Brent. Ward joined Watford Ladies at the age of nine and went on to progress through to the first team before becoming the captain of the clubs senior side.
Ward joined Arsenal Ladies in January 2009, scoring on her debut for the club in an FA Cup tie against Colchester United. In twenty months at the club, Ward went on to win two FA Cup Finals whilst making twenty seven appearances, scoring eight goals.
A move to Chelsea Ladies followed in September 2010, Ward went on to make another appearance in the FA Cup Final, where this time she scored but ended up on the losing side. Ward spent three years at the club making forty appearances, scoring twelve goals.
Ward announced a transfer to Reading in December 2013, were she was reunited with former Arsenal and Wales’s teammate Jayne Ludlow, who was at the time manager of Reading Ladies. Ludlow later left Reading to become manager of the Welsh National side, but Ward continues to play for Reading in the FA WSL1.
At International level despite playing for the England Women’s U23 side in 2007, Ward chose to represent Wales at senior level, again linking up with Jayne Ludlow.
Ward has an excellent international goal scoring record, scoring over thirty goals in just over fifty games and she is the Welsh National teams all–time record goalscorer.
Last season Reading Football Club won the FA WSL2 Championship and Helen Ward was awarded the 2015 Players Player of the year award. So far this season in the FA WSL 1, Reading have played two game and have drawn one and lost one.
Who was your biggest influence in football?
The biggest influence in career has probably been my brother, especially when I was younger. He was the one that got me into football and still now gives me advice and guidance and a kick up the backside when I need it!
What is your best football highlight?
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience many highs during my career. Winning trophies and scoring important goals is obviously very special, but if I had to choose one I would say the night Wales played Belarus at the Cardiff City Stadium. I scored the only goal in a 1-0 win, it just happened to be my 30th international goal in my 50th international appearance for Wales. That was a special night.
What is your football lowlight?
Again I have been fortunate enough not to experience too many lows, but losing the FA Cup Final on penalties in 2012 having led twice. The first equaliser came in the dying minutes of the 90 so that was tough.
When did you make your league debut?
I made my senior league debut for Watford around 2001/2002?! I think I was 15 or 16 but it was a long time ago!
Toughest player you have played against and why?
From a personal perspective and looking at it positionally, I would have to say Wendie Renard of France. She is so tall and so fast it was a really tough couple of games when we played them in the last World Cup qualifying campaign.
Best player you have played with and why?
Ooh I don’t know! Kim Little and Jess Fishlock would have to be up there for sure – Jess has probably assisted 30 of my 39 international goals! She is a selfless player and works so hard for the team but has amazing quality on the ball.
I played a couple of times with Kelly Smith too but when I was with Watford, I played with Ellen Maggs who was an unreal talent and never had the career she should have had. Her ability on the ball was frightening and we struck up a really good relationship on the pitch, the two seasons I had with her were probably the most fun and fruitful of my career.
Having played for England U23 what made you choose to become a fully international with Wales?
To be honest with you I didn’t have much time with the u23s, especially in terms of game time and so when my club coach joked about having a Welsh background I jumped at the chance. It’s the best decision I have made in football and I have loved every second of being involved with the Welsh team.
What are the main differences between playing and training for your club and country?
One of the major differences is the time you have together, with Wales we have to cram a lot of information into a lot shorter space of time and also bring players in from all sorts of different playing styles with their clubs. Also the international game is very different in the way teams set up and play.
The standards vary from nation to nation whereas when you are playing domestic football, nowadays every team has quality and the league is a lot tighter so more often than not you know what to expect. Of course with the big nations you know what you are getting but when you go to places like Kazakhstan and Israel there’s always the element of the Unknown.
How has the Women’s game changed from when you started your career?
It’s ridiculous how much it has changed. If you’d have asked me 15 years ago whether teams would ever be able to go professional I would have laughed. Everything has developed and gone on to bigger and better things.
There is still a long way to go but going from paying to play and taking your own ball to training on a Wednesday night to now training every day with GPS devices on your back, it’s worlds apart.
Who is the best manager you have played for and why?
Again that’s a tough question. I’ve played for some top managers in my time who have done a lot for me. Matt Beard at Chelsea stands out as he is a very good man manager and knows how to get the best from his players.
I also enjoyed a lot of success under Jarmo Matikaenen during his time with Wales. He really believed in me and again got a lot out of me and the team. I have also enjoyed playing under Jayne Ludlow since she took over.
What impact has the WSL and the World Cup had on Women’s football?
I think the World Cup had a massive impact especially with the England team doing so well. There was a real surge of interest after last summer and I hope we can use it to push on even further.
I think the creation of the WSL has also enabled more and more clubs to become more professional and has created a brand for women’s football in it’s own right rather than just being a female version of men’s football and that’s a huge positive
If you could change one rule in football what would it be and why?
It would definitely be that rule where if the goalie takes a goal kick and the defender receives it in the area the goal kick is retaken! It should be an indirect free kick to the other team as it’s such an easy get out clause when you’re under pressure or a miss kick from the goalkeeper!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time, would you like to go into management, media or a coaching roles with younger players?
Well as I am rapidly approaching my 30th birthday, or even reached it depending on when this goes out. I should think I may not still be running up and down the pitch anymore. I am studying for a degree in sports Writing and Broadcasting so something in that area is of a huge interest to me.
I also like the idea of coaching and working with younger players so I wouldn’t rule that out. I’m not sure management is really for me though as I have moaned too much about my own managers and I’d feel like too much of a hypocrite!!