Arsenal Ladies aim to give departing manager a winning send-off in FA Cup final against Everton
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Goalkeeper Emma Byrne says Arsenal are determined to retain the FA Women’s Cup this weekend and give departing manager Shelley Kerr a triumphant send-off.
Sunday’s final against Everton in Milton Keynes (kick-off 4.30pm) will be Kerr’s last game in charge of the Gunners after she announced her resignation earlier this week.
And long-serving Byrne, who has won seven FA Cups during her time as Arsenal’s number one, believes the manager’s exit will give the players extra motivation as they bid to turn around their poor start to the season.
The Gunners are bottom of the Women’s Super League after taking just a point from their first four games and Byrne admitted: “We’re desperate to win and we’re going to put things right.
“We’ve been struggling for a while and I think Shelley herself feels she’s at a dead end. It was a heartbreaking decision for her to make and we’re still trying to get our heads around it.
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“But we have to look towards the final and hopefully we can win it for Shelley as well as the club. You always want to finish things on a good note and, as it’s Shelley’s last game, we want to win for her.
“And we also need to do it for ourselves because, unless you’re in the Champions League final, this is the biggest day of the season. This club has had a long history with the FA Cup and we want to retain it.
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“We’re only a few games into the league and we’ve had a bad start – we haven’t been playing well. But we’re not panicking about that at all as we know it can change.
“If we win against Everton I think it’ll be a jump-start to our season and no-one should write us off, because we will turn it around and hopefully we will do it on Sunday.”
Like Arsenal, the Merseyside club are struggling in the league and sit just a point ahead of their opponents, but an FA Cup success could galvanise their campaign.
The Toffees have lifted the trophy once before, when they beat Arsenal 3-2 after extra time in the 2010 final and Byrne confesses that the result still rankles with her.
“It’s funny because it’s mainly the losses I remember, of all the games we’ve played,” said the 34-year-old. “I’ve won a lot of FA Cup finals but I remember the losses more than the wins.
“That game [four years ago] stands out and it’s another motivation to beat Everton. They took the cup from us that time with a late goal and we certainly didn’t like that feeling.
“A lot of this group of players haven’t seen an FA Cup final before, so they’ll be hungry for it. For this to be a bottom of the table clash does seem really weird, but every final is different.
“This is a game we strongly believe we can win and we also know we need to win, so it’s a completely different mindset going into this final from any other.”
Kerr, who has been in charge for less than 18 months, decided to quit after Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat at home to Bristol Academy on Sunday – their third straight league reverse.
The Gunners also failed to find the net in any of those games – a curious statistic given that they scored five times in their FA Cup semi-final success against Chelsea.
But Byrne feels a return to clean sheets is the key to an improvement at the other end of the field.
“I think we need to go back to basics with defending,” added the Gunners keeper. “It does start with us. I’ll always look at us as a unit before I look at anyone else.
“There have been a few problems there we need to iron out. We need to keep a clean sheet and, once the confidence builds from there it will go throughout the team to the forwards.”