Experience key for Ria Percival ahead of historic WSL opener
Fri 06 September 2019, 13:26|Tottenham Hotspur
Experienced defender Ria Percival has thrown her backing behind the younger members of the Spurs Women squad as we stand on the verge of history.
The record appearance-maker for New Zealand, a World Cup regular, veteran campaigner across Europe and North America and, just last season, an FA Cup finalist with West Ham, Ria is no stranger to top-level competition.
Having made the switch from our London rivals this summer, the 29-year-old has been in the thick of the preparations as we edge closer to our first ever match in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League (WSL) against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday (12.30pm, live on BBC red button).
And as one of a number of high-quality recruitments made by Karen Hills and Juan Amoros, joining 11 members of our Championship promotion-winning squad from last term, Ria is ready to share her vast experience to help her new team-mates acclimatise quickly to life in the top flight.
“Experience is a massive thing,” said the Basildon-born defender, who made 16 WSL appearances for the Hammers last season. “Nerves can get the better of players and for some of the girls it is going to be a massive game on Sunday but, for us more experienced players, it’s just about trying to help them through it, getting prepared and focusing on the game rather than the atmosphere and everything else that’s going on.
“We’re new in the league obviously, so we want to find our feet, but we also want to show what we’re bringing to the table. For the girls from last season who have now come into this division, it’s going to be a massive step but for all of us and for me personally, you want to win every game – it doesn’t matter what team it’s against. It’s a massive game for us to start with – Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the first game of the season. They’re a big team from last season, it’s a big challenge for us but we’ve prepared well and now we’re just working through the final days of preparation before the game.”
Prior to her time at West Ham, Ria garnered ample experience of top-level football in Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga with FFC Frankfurt and FF USV Jena, in addition to stints at Lynn-Avon United in New Zealand, F.C. Indiana in America, Ottawa Fury in Canada and FC Basel in Switzerland. And that’s without even mentioning a glittering international career that has seen her represent New Zealand at no less than four World Cups and three Olympic Games. So how much of that experience does she feel she can translate to our new-look side as we prepare for Sunday’s battle at the Bridge?
“A big thing would be composure on the pitch,” she explained. “For me, it’s about trying to be more of a leader this season. We have a few young players and more experienced players but, for me, it’s about trying to be a leader in every game and especially in the bigger ones. It’s about keeping the team pushing forward and trying to get the best out of all the girls.
“A game is a game – it’s winnable for any team on the day and if we show patches of what we did against West Ham last weekend against Chelsea, we’ll be in the game. The physical battle is a massive one but if we get in early and win that physical battle then we’ve got every chance. Chelsea are a great team and they’ve got many good players but you also look at our team and the players we’ve got. There are many threats in our team and we know each game can be won by any team on the day, so we’re all up for it.”