Brighton & Hove Albion women’s first-team manager Hope Powell believes that this afternoon’s SSE Women’s FA Cup tie against Manchester United is one to savour.
The meeting is the first time Albion will take on the Red Devils since they formed a team last year, but Powell thinks their opponents' full-time status and international contingent will make the game even, despite being in a division higher than the visitors.
She said, “Everyone is looking forward to it, we’re relishing the prospect of playing Man United, a big club. It gives us an opportunity to see what they’re like if we stay in this league for next season.
“They’re full-time and near the top of their league. They’re probably too good for that league and will get promoted, so with the calibre of players they have, with a lot of young internationals, it will be a very big test for us and one that we’re looking forward to.”
In the opposite dugout will be former England captain Casey Stoney, a player Powell managed during her time with the national team, and while she admits she’ll be pleased to see the former defender, the focus is very much on putting in a good performance.
“It will be lovely to see Casey. We’ve been in touch, and I’m really pleased she’s in management, she’s one of those players that always portrayed those qualities on and off the pitch.
“She always had an interest in coaching and it was always an avenue she was going to go down, I’m really pleased that she’s stayed in the game and she’ll pass on a lot of that knowledge to the players. It’ll be great to see her, I’m pleased she’s doing well, but hopefully not on Sunday.
“Part of my role when I was at The FA, working with UEFA and FIFA, was about working with young female coaches. For me, it is really good to see her in the dugout doing well. The focus for me is what Brighton do, not about me or Casey.
“The most important thing is how the players perform. It’s a game of football and one we want to enjoy.”
Albion suffered defeat in their previous match against United’s rivals Manchester City, but Powell saw plenty of positives from that match that her team can take into today’s encounter.
“Manchester City have a great group of talented players, and after conceding an early penalty, you hold your breath somewhat. I must give huge credit to the girls for the way they battled in the second half, not conceding a goal and it showed a lot of character and heart.
“We’ll take those second half positives, Ellie Hack making her full debut playing for the 90 minutes. It was unfortunate she gave away the penalty, but it didn’t affect her and she only grew in confidence. I think if you want to be the best, then you have to understand what the best looks like, and we aspire to be like that.
“The FA Cup is pretty special, you want to stay in this competition, it brings a lot of history with ups and downs, it’d be great to progress, but our sights are on staying in this league. We’ll do the best we can, if we progress then great, if not, then we set our focus on the league.”
Tickets will be available to purchase on the turnstiles at a price of £10 for adults and £4 for under-10s.