Sheffield United Ladies manager Carla Ward plans attack strategy

Carla Ward.
Carla Ward.

Sometimes an approach is not just right for one club, it’s right for all. An ideal world doesn’t exist, of course, but thankfully Sheffield United are not alone in trying to play the game in the right way.

It follows that what’s good for the men is also good for the women as Bramall Lane prepares to roll out Championship football on two levels in the coming season.

And the integration of the two, using the same resources under the same roof, has prompted ladies manager Carla Ward to follow the creed successfully laid down by Chris Wilder.

The two have a running dialogue as a holiday-less Ward sweeps the market for up to 16 players following United’s elevation to the newly-formed second tier of the FA Women’s Super League.

And the recruitment criteria is exactly the same.

So is the style of football that will be demanded. “Attack, attack, attack,” to quote the ladies team boss.

For all the pressure on getting bodies into Bramall Lane before the women’s season begins in late August, Ward is being picky.

“There’s a culture here that you bring in a person before a player,” she told me. “It’s developing an understanding of what’s expected as a squad, a togetherness. Chris’s team has reflected that - and I’m like that anyway.”

The former powerhouse of rival Championship outfit Sheffield FC Ladies pointedly referred to rejecting one player of “outstanding” talent.

“Her attitude is not the greatest and one bad egg in a team can change everything . . . whereas if we can get a squad that wants to work together and has the right attitude, you’ve got more chance.”

While the Blades ladies outfit aims to be strong enough to avoid slipping back down the ladder, the word “consolidation” is out.

It amounts to a commitment to entertain and aim high, just as Wilder’s team did in the Championship last season.

“As an attacking midfielder, I’ve always been that way,” says Ward.

“We’re going to go and attack, attack, attack.”

It’s a bold declaration in what, for her, will be a results business in no less a way than in the men’s game.

But it matters how they are achieved, which can’t always be said for football as a whole.

In some respects, the ladies are taking a refreshing lead. While you can’t compare the two in pure physicality terms, from what I’ve seen the women are actually tougher in the sense of competing hard and bouncing back up after taking knocks.

Theatrical falls and phoney injuries are frowned on by the players themselves.

Ward puts it this simply: “Feigning injury and cheating? You’d get hammered by your team mates if you did that.” I think Wilder would expect similar in his dressing room.

If that helps referees then Ward feels that needs reciprocating.

She brands officiating in the women’s game generally as “atrocious”, adding: “You scratch your head sometimes – I can’t even put it into words how bad it is.”

Her call to the FA to raise standards perhaps brings another challenge for women in football. The game needs more female officials at all levels. A chance here to show they can do it as well, if not better.