Aston Villa boss Carla Ward remains focused on closing gaps following new deal

Aston Villa boss Carla Ward insisted she would not just “chuck money” at the task of trying to reel in the Women’s Super League’s big guns after signing a contract extension.

The 39-year-old, who guided Villa to a ninth-place finish last season – after joining from derby rivals Birmingham in May 2021 – will remain at the helm until the end of the 2023-24 campaign after the club took up an option to retain her services.

The Midlanders currently sit in seventh place with Ward determined to persist with the long-term strategy with which she arrived as the chasing pack attempt to close the gap on top four Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Saturday’s opponents Manchester City.

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Asked how big that gap was, Ward said: “Big. My opinion is that people think if you chuck money at it, you can go and join in the top four.

“It’s not the right way of thinking because it doesn’t happen overnight, you can see that with the top sides.

“It’s really important that we continue to build in the way that we can – sustainably as well – and as long as each year we’re continuing to improve, we’re continuing to close gaps, there’s no reason why further down the line, you can’t then knock on the door of the top four.

“But like I said, it’s really important that you don’t just chuck a number at it and try to do it in the wrong way.

“You have to build carefully, you have to build structurally and I think we’re starting to do that.”

Jordan Nobbs made her Aston Villa debut against Tottenham on Sunday
Jordan Nobbs made her Aston Villa debut against Tottenham on Sunday (Tim Goode/PA)

Villa announced they had extended Ward’s stay on Thursday having been impressed with the work she has done so far.

Head of women’s football Lee Billiard said: “This is terrific news for Carla and the club. We have seen significant improvement in the team under her leadership and this contract extension will allow her to continue progressing and building on our strategy to develop the game.”

Ward’s focus on recruiting the right people on and off the pitch has proved central to that improvement and the addition of hugely-experienced England international Jordan Nobbs from Arsenal earlier this month represented something of a coup.

Nobbs, who made her debut along with fellow new arrival Lucy Staniforth in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Tottenham, missed the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 campaign through injury, but the 30-year-old is determined to force her way back into Sarina Wiegman’s plans.

Ward said: “After her first game, I’ll be honest, I got straight on the phone to Sarina and I said, ‘You’ve got to be watching our games currently because we’ve got players massively performing and they’re doing well’.”

Meanwhile, Ward welcomed Wednesday’s announcement by the Football Association of Wales that it had reached an equal pay agreement with its men’s and women’s teams, but warned extending such an arrangement to the WSL in the current climate was impractical.

She added: “You certainly couldn’t do it in the WSL to the Premier League because the women’s game would crash very, very quickly, so it’s making sure it is relative to each organisation, each football club.”