Dave Lawrence/ Manager/ Sporting Club Albion

We recently caught up with Baggies’ boss Dave Lawrence about good expectations, good examples and the growing excitement of the WSL.

How has season gone so far for your team (has it matched expectations)?

We set targets at the start of the season of 2 good cup runs (county and FA Cups) and a top 3 finish in the league. I would say we are on track for these targets, yet we know there is a long way to go. In terms of our squad, we are in a much healthier position than we were this time last season in terms of size and quality, and this has had a very positive effect on performances to this point. We have played entertaining football at times, but need to ensure we are stronger defensively.

What have the highlights been so far?

Our trip to Colchester in the FA Cup early January was excellent. We worked hard over the Christmas period to keep on top of fitness, and we went into this game with a specific game plan which worked very well. Our League game against Wolves highlighted our attacking prowess, and this was soon after another very impressive display against Newcastle Ladies, scoring 6 excellent goals past a talented side.

Who has impressed for your side this season?

Last season I was constantly commenting on how young our team is, but this year several of these ‘young’ players have really matured and added consistency to their play. Alice Broadbent has become a real leader on the pitch, Kelly Darby has been exceptional at full back, and Ash Neville has shown the form she has threatened for the past 2 seasons. Robyn James continues to be lethal in front of goal, and one of our new additions, Louise Fellows has added another dimension to our play. She keeps the ball well, wins the ball in great areas of the pitch and can score goals from midfield.

What are your aims for 2013?

We often speak of our aims and objectives, and a top 3 finish in the league, another couple of rounds in the FA Cup and a County Cup Final place are realistic for this group of players. This should hopefully act as a good platform for next year’s further development.

Who do you look to as a club, coach or player – as a good example to follow?

As a coach, I always seek inspiration from coaches at our club, youth team coaches, my own staff, and as much as I like to think I teach them some things, they always challenge me and increase my knowledge too. In the public domain I have been inspired by reading Mourinho and Guardiola’s recent books, and have implemented some of their ideas into my practises. I think a club that should be admired in this day and ages is Swansea- after 3 years of transitions and signing players that suit their style of play, they play attractive football when they need to, yet can also defend well in units and dig in when things aren’t going so well. Their football philosophy is very endearing. On a more local level, Coventry City Ladies have shown that teams can move quickly through leagues, with hard work, a professional attitude, and attracting players who can move the team forwards. This is a template for ourselves and other clubs currently competing in the Northern/ Southern Prem.

Your thoughts on FAWSL expansion?

I think it’s an exciting time for Womens Football. No doubt the expansion will make more people aware of the game, and it will continue to form effective links with the community and create role models for young people. The Brazil vs Team GB fixture at Wembley opened a much wider audience to the game, and many who attended or watch this game on TV will have been impressed by what they saw. I hope they continue to support their local teams as the SuperLeague expands.

Will your club be involved?

We have attended a meeting about the expansion, and were very keen to get all the information available to us before making a decision on the application process. It is a big move for a club like us with potentially large repercussions, so at this stage we are weighing up all the options before going firm on any decision. [The club did not in the end apply]

Have you seen any FAWSL action?

I have watched several games last season, attended a couple, and was pleased to see each game well supported, and the quality in these games were excellent. It is also good to see our neighbours, Birmingham City do so well. They play some excellent football and have some very good young players coming through the Junior network.

What else (or instead) could help the women’s game and the ‘top level’ of the sport?

Apart from the obvious improvements financially for womens clubs competing at grass roots football, I would suggest the expansion of Super League, and more media promoting the benefits of womens football should ensure more talented coaches begin to work with girls and womens teams, rather than opting for mens football. It is a great environment to work in, and with The FA doing some excellent work to support ‘new’ coaches, there should be greater incentives to get involved in womens football. This development at grass roots may increase standards at the top level long term.

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