Sunday was a momentous day for Wolves Women as they faced Women’s Super League opposition for the first time in their history.
They took on full-time professionals West Ham United in the FA Cup fourth round in front of 1,692 spectators at AFC Telford United’s New Bucks Head Stadium, with the London side running out 2-0 winners.
It was a significant occasion for Dan McNamara’s part-timers, who are second in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division (third tier).
Wolves’ left-back Katie Johnson, 20, (top image) penned a diary for The Athletic, describing her week building up to the big match.
This is usually my most chilled day, although there is no avoiding the 7am alarm to get to work.
I am a trainee accountant, so have to be at the office for 9am to get cracking with my book-keeping assignments.
We might be part-time footballers but try to act like professional athletes as much as possible so my work is interrupted, as usual, by regular alerts from my phone reminding me to take fluids on board.
Because there are no official club commitments on Monday evening, it is the night I often try to catch up with friends and family.
But this week I head home and watch Fulham v Tottenham on TV and dig out my foam roller.
While full-time players will have a planned recovery session at their training ground the day after a game, we have to manage our own bodies so I combine watching the Premier League game with some stretching to help get over the exertions of our friendly against West Brom.
If Mondays are a bit more relaxed then Tuesdays are manic.
I am at work again with the same duties and the same reminders to eat and drink! But Tuesday evening is training night.
I am lucky my house, office and our sessions at Wolves’ Compton Park training ground are not too far apart so I usually have time to pop home after work before heading to training for 7.30pm. Some of the girls who live further away have to jump straight in their cars after work and head directly to training.
And a few of the players who work shifts — we have a couple of policewomen, for example — sometimes arrive late or leave early to fit training around their work schedules.
The first half an hour of the session is spent going through clips of the previous game to see what lessons we can learn, then it is off to the indoor pitch for training with Dan McNamara, our manager.
I do my day release at college as part of my accountancy training on Wednesdays, so instead of heading for the office I drive to Walsall for a day of learning. College finishes between 3.30 and 4pm so I get home a little earlier.
There is an optional gym session at the training ground every Wednesday, which I sometimes attend. The girls who live too far away to drive over can join in from home via an app.
But, knowing how physically taxing the West Ham game is likely to be, I opt to relax and conserve energy.
This is another long day as, after being in the office from 9am to 5pm, we have our second session of the week at the training ground.
Again, I pop home briefly before the 7.30pm start. Firstly, we have a classroom session watching and analysing clips of West Ham and discussing ways that we might be able to get at them.
Then it is into “the dome” (covered pitch) for our second training session of the week.
Thursdays are usually tougher than Tuesdays physically as we do high-intensity sprints.
There is a palpable sense of excitement knowing such a big game is only a few days away.
This is the hardest day of the week to get out of bed after the demands of training the night before, but there is no avoiding the usual alarm to get to the office.
Friday actually starts earlier than the rest of the week as office hours are 8.30am-4pm, but that does mean I’m home earlier to prepare for the weekend.
Like most young people, Fridays are for socialising and it’s no different for me.
I head out for dinner with a friend but, like most Friday nights, I stay off the alcohol.
It is difficult because we are not full-time athletes, but as I have ambitions to play professional football I try to live like a pro.
The day before the game is about making sure we eat and drink the right things to ensure we are physically ready.
I pop into Wolverhampton city centre to do a bit of shopping and then catch up with some family and friends but that is about as exciting as it gets.
Otherwise it is just a case of taking it easy. I put my feet up and make sure I am in the best shape mentally and physically for the game.
Matchday arrives and we report pretty early for the game.
We meet at the ground at 10.30am — three and a half hours before kick-off, which is about 30 minutes earlier than usual because Dan wants to go through some extra analysis on the big screen.
Because of the strength of our opponents, we are setting up in a lower block than usual, so he wants to make sure we all understand our jobs.
For most of the game, it goes really well. We match them in the first half and it is 0-0 at half-time.
But their extra fitness and the quality of their substitutes was always going to be a big factor.
Iceland international Dagny Brynjarsdottir comes off the bench for them and it really underlines the quality we are up against.
It is therefore no surprise that she finally opens the scoring with 10 minutes to go.
There is then a moment I rather wouldn’t dwell on as I score an own goal to make it 2-0 to West Ham, but there wasn’t a lot I could do (to avoid it).
I track my runner to the far post and when the cross comes in I know I have to get something on it, but can only divert it in.
Despite the defeat, our huddle at the final whistle is about how proud we are of our efforts and how we have sent a message to the rest of the teams in our league.
Getting something against West Ham would have been fantastic, but our aim for this season is promotion and that is still achievable.
(Top photo: Steve Madeley)
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