In July we went on a tour to the Netherlands and Germany, playing MSV Duisberg and FC Twente. MSV were a team packed with international players and play at their own dedicated female facility in front of a good crowd. Th ey were unbelievably well-organised and disciplined, unsurprising playing in a country that has in recent years generally been acknowledged as one of the best female footballing countries.
FC Twente were Dutch champions, again with a stock of international players. Th ere is a debate about pre-season; whether to play teams better than you to have a good test but challenge the players’ confidence, or play a lower team and thrash them and learn nothing. We won all our games last pre-season and it didn’t do us much good for the start of the league so this season we have chosen the harder path. Th is is a signal of our intent. We want to seek out every challenge and overcome it and we want players who are not discouraged by a challenge. To win the league you have to have the character to overcome obstacles. Step by step we will and are moving forward.
James Marrs joined us as our new manager on 28 July and that is a sign of our intent. James won the league with Brighton last season and has a reputation as a winner who plays entertaining and exciting football. He has been there and done what we want to do which is to get into the Super League. Th e response to his appointment has been incredible with praise for the appointment coming from every quarter.
But that raises expectations and we are happy to raise them. West Ham United have a reasonable expectation that their women’s side should be an asset to the club and our job is to meet those expectations. I am a West Ham fan and I want every part of the club to be the best it can be. Playing and seeing sides like MSV Duisberg
gives me and the club a target, and idea of what to aim for. James Marrs has demonstrated through his managerial record that he has the ability to build on and off the pitch and I think the fans are in for a great few seasons ahead. He will take a very active role in overseeing the footballing side of the club starting with the senior team. James was also involved in Brighton’s successful bid to become a Tier 1 Regional Talent Centre for junior football; one of our stated aims
We have already begun work on that application which comes with a great deal of FA funding which we can certainly put to good use. We hope to work with the West Ham Foundation and with the main club to improve the quality of coaching and facilities in this coming season as we build those stars of the future. My job as chairman is to take the credit for the work of others, something I am very good at it!
The hiring of James occurred while I was in the United States and therefore credit for doing much of the hard work should really go to club secretary Richard Barrett and chief operating officer Tim Hunt. It goes against the grain to say something nice about my little brother but sometimes these things cannot be avoided! Karen Ray stepped up from her playing duties to take charge of the first team for our European Tour. Karen has won the league with Arsenal as a player and coached extensively in the USA, most recently working for Bayern Munich.
Karen has worked very hard in her short period as interim manager and has been tireless in making sure that the tour worked out well. A lot of people have a lot to thank Karen for and I hope that she continues to be part of the beating heart of the club. We need people who work hard and care and Karen excels at both. The bit of my job that I actually do personally is to worry, mainly about money. Everything costs money and the more we grow the more it costs.
I was very pleased to reach the end of last season with all the bills paid and money in the bank. It is essential for any club to have a stable financial platform. We are taking a few risks this season and I now have new worries to occupy me. I don’t have to worry about the infrastructure as the new systems such as electronic matchday ticketing have worked well. We won’t be doing season tickets this season but we will be exploring ideas for family tickets and special events.
We hope the appointment of James will lead to increased gates as fans become curious about what we might achieve under him. His team last season attracted three and a half thousand to one game, something we would clearly like to emulate. Our first home game is scheduled to be in the cup against Spurs on Sunday 4 September. Spurs will be itching to avenge their defeat at Upton Park in front of 1,741 noisy fans and we will be keen to show that James has started to take us forward.
The game is the first of a run of five home games for us that will stretch through to October. One of these games will be a midweek duel on 14 September against local rivals C&K Basildon.
Last season a Basildon fixture ended 3-2 to West Ham with three red cards between us. Basildon now have a few ex-West Ham players who are always up for the game so it will be a spectacular contest. Other early visitors include Coventry and Charlton who will be vying for top spot come the end of the season, along with recently promoted Crystal Palace. Plenty of London and local derbies to bring out large crowds. Our season runs on until May with the last two games being Spurs away and then at home in the league. A great way to end? We shall see. BBM