West Ham Ladies manager Marc Nurse is looking forward to the challenge of creating a side capable of challenging for titles and trophies. There have been plenty of players come and go over the summer and the Hammers boss has set himself and his players a mid-table target for the upcoming campaign but will crank up the pressure the following season.
And Nurse said he already knew plenty about the Ladies from his time working with the Crystal Palace Ladies. ‘They’ve always had a history of being a strong side but they’ve just not been able to regularly compete at the top end of the table,’ he said. ‘Of course I’m hoping that this will change but my aim for this season is to finish mid-table and do well in the cups. ‘There were quite a few players who left in the summer and we’ve brought in plenty of new faces so this season will about gelling together.
‘Next season I want us to be challenging to win the league but my task now is to make sure we build a strong competitive team. It’s going to be a tough first season but I’m willing to do what it takes.’ He added: ‘At the moment, I’m enjoying every minute and I can’t wait for the next game to arrive – Sundays can’t come soon enough for me!’
Nurse saw the role advertised on Twitter and fresh from watching the coverage of the Women’s World Cup and the success of the Lionesses, was inspired to apply. ‘I thought this role was perfect for me,’ he continued. ‘It fits around my working life as a secondary school PE teacher, I live in Basildon so it’s easy enough for me to get to the training ground and our home ground and it just felt like applying for this role was a natural thing for me to do.
‘I thought I would get onto the shortlist and I was confident I’d get an interview but with the amount of interest there was in the role, I knew it would be tough. When my interview was over, I wasn’t sure how I did but I was delighted to get the call offering me the role. ‘What’s nice for me is that the chairmen and I think the same, we have the same outlook and same ambitions. They are doing some incredible work off the pitch and everything is really positive – there’s a great vibe around the club at the moment.
He continued: ‘The Ladies were very welcoming when I met them. For the first training session I just watched them train and the next few sessions it was a case of getting involved more, showing them my ideas and how I want them to play. ‘Our pre-season wasn’t the best because of the sides we were up against. The teams were in leagues below us and I didn’t learn a lot about the players from these games. It would be hard for any manager to take things away to work on when your team wins 16-0. I would’ve liked to have played teams above us because it would’ve helped me to see where we are at and what we need to do to get to that next level.
‘We did, however, learn a lot from our first game when we lost 5-0 at Coventry. We were missing six key players who would’ve all started but I took away a lot from that experience.’ Aside from the exposure offered to the Ladies after Julian Dicks left his post as manager to join Slaven Bilic’s coaching staff, the Hammers enjoyed an incredible amount of coverage in India after goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan became the country’s first woman to play English league football. Not that column inches was at the forefront of Nurse’s mind when he recruited the shot-stopper.
‘She was training with Millwall but her visa doesn’t allow her to play in the Women’s Super League so she joined us and then it went mad,’ Nurse continued. ‘There was huge interest from India and the story appeared on most of India’s major TV networks and news organisations. I know Aditi has been on TV over there and it’s great for the West Ham Ladies but also the West Ham brand as a whole. ‘When she signed, I honestly wasn’t thinking about the PR or marketing side of what her signature might mean – I just needed to sign a good goalkeeper!’
As for the challenge of trying to recruit women players, something former boss Dicks described as incredibly difficult during his time in charge, Nurse added: ‘I’ve got quite a few friends who work in schools and colleges and I’m speaking to them all on a regular basis. ‘They’ve been sending girls over to us and hopefully this will help us get good players on board.’ As for his coaching inspirations, the Arsenal fan pointed at Arsene Wenger but also to Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. ‘I like the way he is. If I was a player, I would like to play for him. I like the confidence he has and his winning mentality.’
He added: ‘My big thing, as a coach, is being as prepared as I can be. There’s no point going into a game and having no clue what you are doing or having any information about the other team. ‘You can’t be going into games blind and guessing when you are running a team. For me, it doesn’t matter if you are in charge of the West Ham Ladies or Real Madrid, you need to plan and prepare all the time. ‘You need to keep looking at everything you need both on and off the pitch to maximise your side’s potential.’