Exclusive: West Ham Ladies Legend Claire Lacey On Team’s 2017/2018 Success
West Ham United Ladies’ all-time record appearance holder Claire Lacey has heaped praise on her former team and their double cup winning success during a ground-breaking 2017/2018 season, speaking exclusively to West Ham Matters.
Karen Ray’s side went unbeaten, baaing one home match against Lewes, for the whole second half of the FA WPL Southern Division season, escaping the clutches of the bottom of the table to finish seventh.
Along the way, they also lifted the Isthmian Women’s Cup and the WPL Plate trophies, and Lacey, a former England International as well as West Ham player of over 11 years, is proud of the team’s progress.
“The ladies have progressed in the second half of the season, moving up the table and winning their cup finals.”
Boss Ray, who took the reins from Greg de Carnys in December and has played a massive part in the girls turning things around, is set to step down from her interim manager role and return to being the General Manager this summer, but does Lacey think they can continue in this vein next term?
“I can only see them building on this going into next season, so I wish them well.”
Off the pitch as well as on it, it has been a historic few months for everyone involved with West Ham Ladies, which ended with Sunday afternoon’s triumphing 7-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers Ladies to close out the league campaign in winning style.
Still under two years on from being brought in-house by the club and recognised to exist, the side were involved in a number of events with the men’s first-team, including being recognised at the home match against Manchester United before kick-off for their achievements and playing a part in an open training session at London Stadium.
The team has also been heavily involved with initiatives such as Women’s Football Week, seven days of campaigning to promote the women’s game and make it appeal to the younger generation, through their youth teams and youth program, something that the Hammers great was involved in setting up back in the day.
“I was privileged to play my part in setting up and developing the youth teams at WHULFC, when the youth squads were first introduced.”
Having already signed a historic partnership with Rich Energy last season, the Ladies have also hooked up with Barking Abbey School Specialist Sports College to provide technical, vocational and educational training for aspiring female footballers aged between 16-18.
Back on the field, major highlights of one of their highest-placed finishes in the WPL Southern Division in their recent history have included the two cup victories, where they defeated league leaders Charlton Athletic in the final of the first.
In the second, they overcame Luton Town 5-0, a game in which bright young skipper Rosie Kmita netted the side’s first official Goal of the Season, a 30-yard lob over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the net.
For the first time in history, Ray’s girls were recognised at the West Ham United Player Awards brought to you by Betway and in aid of the Academy with an award of their very own.
This came in the form of Ladies Players’ Player of the Season and was awarded to a player who only arrived at the club at the back end of last year, but has made a profound impact.
Ellie Zoepfl, signed from the University of East London, has managed a staggering 15 goals in 17 matches in all competitions, including a hat-trick in Sunday’s thrashing of Rangers at their home ground of Rush Green.
However, despite being nowhere near the top of their current division due to a poor start to the season under de Carnys, the Hammers could be playing a league up next campaign.
A few months ago, the club applied for entry for the women’s team into the Women’s Super League, encompassing WSL 1 and 2, the highest level of the English game.
An announcement is expected next week on whether they, and a number of other sides that applied, have been successful or not, although certain results over the past few months would imply that they certainly should be.
In the league, the Irons have dispatched the likes of QPR 0-10 away from home, Cardiff City 3-6, Swindon Town 0-6, and recorded a pair of 7-1 home victories, over Portsmouth and the R’s, as well as a 5-0 in the reverse fixture with Swindon.
But, when Lacey left West Ham for rivals Millwall Lionesses 11 years ago, featuring at such a high level in Claret & Blue would have been a wild dream with the team still competing in the Greater London League.
The club great, who made over 350 appearances n Hammers colours over a near 15 year period, retired from the game a couple of years ago, playing last for C&K Basildon, although she remains a fan of her childhood club to this day, attending every home game at London Stadium.
“Having played for the ladies over some 13 seasons, from a teenager continuing to be a Season Ticket holder, West Ham United will always remain a big part of my life.”
It’s hard to believe that Lacey’s prestigious career could have been even better, had it not been for a back injury which plagued much of her time as a player.
The injury even forced her out of the goalkeeper position and into defence, halting her England prospects having made her debut for the Three Lions in a Women’s European Championship qualifier away in Portugal, her one and only appearance for the national team.
Lacey was still the first ever Hammer to turn out for the home nation and despite it being over a decade since she last pulled on the Claret & Blue as a player, she remains an avid supporter of both the men’s and women’s teams, a true West Ham United legend.