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Sat 08 May 2021, 14:00|Tottenham Hotspur

With the curtain closing on the 2020/21 Barclays FA Women’s Super League season, we face a tough trip to the Midlands in our final game. Spurs Women Head Coach Rehanne Skinner previews the match against Birmingham City at Damson Park on Sunday afternoon (2.30pm).

1 - Chelsea analysis

What was your assessment of the performance against Chelsea in midweek?

Rehanne: “I think we definitely put in a more spirited performance and we were definitely more committed to our possession work which we knew we would definitely have to do more of against a team like Chelsea. I think the biggest thing for us was that we were trying to make things really compact and to make ourselves harder to break down, and we certainly hadn’t done that against Manchester United. We were better at it and we had to defend a lot of wide balls and crosses where, for me, I was pleased that we were getting first contact and getting bodies on the line at key times. I’m aware that they had a number of shots, but ultimately, we were getting into positions to try and nullify those opportunities.

“It was just a couple of moments of quality for them to be able to score and that’s just part of it with a team like them at this moment in time. I think there were spells where we created chances for ourselves and we were more dogged and resilient throughout the game, which is much more like the game we played against Reading in the FA Cup, so my expectation going into this weekend’s game is to absolutely continue to do that. We have to be able to maintain those standards and that’s something that’s really key.”

2 - Our mentality

With Birmingham just behind us in the league, what is our mentality going into the game?

Rehanne: “We’re trying to win the game. The bottom line is we’ve got to finish on a high - we’ve had a spell with some difficult games against the top four and that was always going to be the case. When I looked at the fixtures when I came in, it was always going to be challenging in that period, but we have to be able to get a result out of this game and set ourselves up ready for an FA Cup game (versus Sheffield United) and finish, still in the FA Cup, and in a position that’s as high as we could possibly achieve at this point in the WSL.”

3 - New contracts

Shelina Zadorsky and Rosella Ayane both signed new contracts this week, how key are they to your plans next season?

Rehanne: “I’m really pleased that they’ve signed new contracts. It’s massive for the Club and it shows an intent as to what we’re trying to do here. Shelina has been a fantastic captain. When we’ve gone through that evolving process, she’s worked well for the team and she’s been a strong influence within the team, which has certainly been a real positive for us. Of course, we want her to stay, we want her to keep helping us drive towards what we’re achieving on this journey here at Spurs. Her qualities are coming through, her leadership is clearly apparent and that’s certainly going to be a positive for us moving forward.

“In terms of Rosella, she’s a player who is learning to play in the system that I’m trying to implement. There’s been times where we’ve seen some real good quality out of her, and we just want to keep working in the right direction and to keep having all of her strengths utilised to our advantage. She’s improved tremendously since I’ve been here and it’s something we want to keep moving into next season and developing further for her.”

4 – Reflecting on the season

With the end of the season approaching, how do you reflect on your role so far and looking ahead to next season?

Rehanne: “I think, when I came in, I was really excited to come into this job, I think it was a great opportunity at a great time for me and I think, when I first came into the Club, there were some really clear things that I wanted to implement, and we had a really good start to that process. For us, the slump happened when we had some disruption to games and fixtures and, off the back of that, we lost a little bit of momentum unfortunately, but we were still playing well, and performances were great, in the context of creating opportunities, and we had some great games against Reading and Everton. Those are games, on reflection, that we should have taken more out of but, the bottom line is, goals win games and we weren’t in a position to do that at that time, so that led us into a challenging period against the top four but, fortunately, that was broken up with the FA Cup game, where we showed a real amount of resilience to come from behind and get back into that game.

“I think across the board, over the course of the year we’ve been implementing a philosophy, there’s inevitably going to be players who get on with that easier than others and, moving forward, we’re going to be looking at building a squad that helps us to keep moving in the direction of travel that we want to go in as a club and, on this journey, we know that is going to take time.

“Nothing like this happens overnight, so sometimes you have to make some difficult decisions to move forward and overall, I think the players have been fantastic. Everybody works really hard here, it’s been great for me to get to know the staff better and tweak some processes to help evolve the environment here. There is a lot of good stuff going on here at the club, behind the scenes, and it’s only positive going into next year. A lot has gone on, but that’s football and that’s the same at any club. But it’s all moving in the right direction, so I’m really enjoying it, and looking forward to the end of the season, but then starting again next year."

5 - Julie Chipchase

With the sad loss of Julie Chipchase, how much will she be missed?

Rehanne: “It’s really hard to put into words actually. In the context of the women’s game, I just think the amount of people she has influenced over time - players, coaches - through the roles that she’s had at the FA, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Leeds United, just the people who will have been influenced positively and supported by her as a coach, developer or as a player learning, will be massive. It’s a huge shock for me and I said the other day that, essentially, there weren’t a lot of female coaches around who were visible for me when I started coaching, but 'Chippy' was one of them. Having role models and people to aspire towards who are working with England squads and those sorts of things is just invaluable, and I’m certainly grateful for having known her and been around that set-up as I was growing through my coaching career as well. It’s really sad news for the game and for her family, so my condolences go to them.”