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Women's Football News
Sunday will be a 'red letter' day for West Ham United as they will make their first ever appearance in the Premier League following their promotion at the end of last season. Their first game in their new league will be an away trip to Bristol City, who were playing two divisions above the Hammers in the last campaign.
Hammers midfielder Aoife Aherne played an important role in her team's success in winning the South East Combination title, after finishing as runners-up to Crystal Palace the previous season. "We went close the year before, so we were quite confident that we were ready to progress," Aoife told Women's Soccer Scene. "We had a poor start but it gave us the proverbial 'kick up the backside' and we got together as a squad from there. We beat our rivals, Northampton Town, home and away so we deserved the title, but we did get a little nervous near the end."
Aoife is looking forward to the opening match against Bristol City and feels it will be a good test for her side. "It is something the team wanted as a group and what we have been working towards," she says. "The first game is going to be a tough one.
"Bristol City will have a point to prove (after relegation) so it will be a massive game for us. I know they have lost Rachel McArthur but they will still be strong. It will be a game where the two teams will be unknown to each other and hopefully we can win it."
Looking beyond the first match, Aoife reveals that consolidation is the main aim for the Hammers this season. "We are looking to solidify ourselves in the league and make a good impression. Mid-table would be a good season, and possibly a good cup run would be nice. We reached the last sixteen of the FA Cup last year and lost to Charlton, so now we're aiming to go one step further this time.
"Crystal Palace did well last season which will be encouraging for us - we knocked them out of the Cup and that has given us confidence.
"This division is one of the hardest in the country as it is so open and strong. Anyone can beat anyone on the day, and that showed last year as even Chelsea didn't go the whole season unbeaten."
So who does Aoife feel will be among the challenging teams? "Having just come down, Bristol City will still have experience of this league and know what it takes to win it. They, and Portsmouth, are probably the favourites and AFC Wimbledon will be one of the strongest sides."
West Ham manager Julie Setford has strengthened her squad with signings from Millwall Lionesses and Watford, including the likes of Vicky Bruce and Charlene Turturici. But which of the squad does Aoife think will flourish in the Premier League? "Our goalkeeper Claire Lacey has been targeted by a couple of top clubs but she has stayed loyal to us, and she will be one to watch in this league, while Stacey Crump and Sam Pittuck should also do well," she replies.
"On a personal note, it's a big ambition of mine to play in the Premier League as not a lot of Irish players are playing at this level, so I'm looking forward to it." Aoife has been capped by the Republic of Ireland at youth level, so maybe this will help her push for a place in the senior squad? "Perhaps in the future I might get a call up," she smiles, "but my main aim is to do well for West Ham and keep my place in the team."
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