'Playing against Villa will always bring back special memories' - Jess Naz
Sat 12 December 2020, 12:30|Tottenham Hotspur
On the afternoon of Wednesday 1 May, 2019, our semi-professional players left their full-time jobs early to make the trip to the West Midlands to face Aston Villa later that evening. This would be a game that would go down in history as one of the most momentous nights in Spurs Women’s existence.
A hard-fought 1-1 draw with Villa at Boldmere St Michaels secured our promotion to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and it was no surprise when Jess Naz, a standout player for us in the 2018/19 campaign, got on the scoresheet that night, coming up with one of the most important goals in our history.
We started the match with great intent on a cold night at Villa and within 30 seconds of kick-off, Jess brilliantly beat two defenders before being fouled in a dangerous position on the edge of the penalty area. The resulting setpiece was played short by Coral-Jade Haines to Jess, who exquisitely curled the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.
“It was such a crazy day,” Jess recalled. “There was a lot of pressure and I think we stepped up to the occasion and performed well against a team who were in good form. I was lucky enough to get the early goal but then we conceded and were fighting to the very last minute to hold on in that game. We stuck with it and it was a relief to hear the final whistle and know that we sealed our spot in the WSL, where we deserved to be.”
🙌 WE'VE DONE IT 🙌— Tottenham Hotspur Women (@SpursWomen) May 1, 2019
Tonight's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa means that we have now secured a promotion spot!!
👏 Huge congratulations to our girls who have been outstanding this season! #COYS ⚪ #SpursLadies pic.twitter.com/BnX2aNn7Vr
Tomorrow, we welcome Gemma Davies’ side to The Hive in our first competitive meeting with Villa since clinching our promotion to the top flight, and for Jess, the fixture that holds plenty of happy memories for her and the Club has come at a perfect time after she made her long-awaited return from her ACL injury in last Sunday’s league win against Brighton.
“It was such a great feeling getting back out on the pitch after being out for so long,” Jess said, having been out of action for 481 days. “It was even more special because the fans were back, and my family were there to see me come on. The cheer that I got when I came on was really special and that’s something that will stay with me for a long time. I have been supported by everyone literally from the day I found out about my ACL injury. My team-mates, the coaches and just everyone at the Club has been there for me. The fans too, they’ve been checking up on me, asking how my recovery is going and I really did feel that support from everyone when I came on the pitch last Sunday too. The plan is for me to get more minutes game by game, but it’s going to be a gradual process. I think playing against Villa will always bring back special memories for me following our promotion so I’m looking forward to the match tomorrow.”
New Head Coach Rehanne Skinner, who Jess worked with while playing for England Under-18s, started her reign off with a 3-1 win against Hope Powell’s side last Sunday, our first league win of the season, in a game which also saw the return of fans to The Hive.
“I think having the fans helped us a lot,” Jess said. “We know that we’ve got quality in our squad and belief so we knew the win would come soon but I’m glad we were able to get the result in front of our home fans at The Hive. We’ve played some great football already this season, but we weren’t able to finish our chances or in some games, we just didn’t create enough. I think against Brighton, we showed glimpses of what we’ve been working on with Rehanne in training and it was good to get some goals and be able to finish the game comfortably. Coming back into training following the win, the girls all had smiles on their faces. Scoring three goals and converting our chances against Brighton has given us more belief that we can go and do that against Villa tomorrow.
“I learnt a lot from Rehanne during my time with England and she has helped me develop as a player as she is a great coach who brings high standards. Mentality-wise, we’re working hard for each other and fighting, and I think that will help us moving forward to become ruthless in front of goal. The emphasis in training since she’s come in is finishing the attack, getting goals and being more confident in playing forward. We have so many great players here, but I think we just need to believe more in our abilities.”
A bright young talent in a squad full of experience, 20-year-old Jess is making the most of being around two-time World Cup winner Alex Morgan, who scored her first goal for the Club from the penalty spot in last Sunday’s win.
“It’s been great being around Alex and taking in as much as I can from her,” Jess continued. “One thing I have definitely learnt from her is about her mentality – she always wants to win and I think that’s one thing I can take from her and look to set goals and targets in matches and training sessions, to try to be the best player on the pitch. As forwards, I think sometimes we tend to stick to our positions but Alex has helped us to try to be more fluid and be more courageous in the final third to try and score more goals and the advice she is giving is definitely helping us. I think she is the type of player who keeps going, even if something hasn’t gone her way. That’s credit to her. She’s always working hard, always wants the ball and always steps up and it was great to see her score her first goal last Sunday.”