Yankey determined

Tuesday 30 April 2002

There were a few worried faces around the Ladies training ground on Monday as winger Rachel Yankey limped out of a fiercely contested practice-match with what looked to be an ankle injury. Fortunately it appears to be nothing more than a slight flare-up of an old knock, and should not prevent the England international taking her place in the Cup Final side against the Doncaster Belles next Monday.

Sitting with an ice-pack on her leg, the former Arsenal striker spoke about what the forthcoming Final means to her.

"I think everyone's starting to feel the excitement now," she said, "We just want to get out there and play the game. Last year was a great day out, but we all felt we'd let ourselves and the supporters down and this time we want everything to be the same, but with us ending up winning the game.

"Losing that Final has definitely made us better as a team. It did us a favour in a funny kind of way, we know now how sad the feeling is when you lose a game like this, and I don't ever want to go through that again. It's made us much more determined to win this time, and then we can enjoy the celebrations."

Monday's game promises to be something of a contrast in styles, with Fulham's fluid, passing game finding itself up against the more robust approach of the Belles. It won't change the way the Whites approach the game however.

"It's going to be a different sort of game against Doncaster," said Yankey, "We haven't played them before, so we don't know too much about them and they won't know too much about us. They're more physical than Arsenal, a lot stronger in the air, so it will be a completely different game out there.

"Hopefully we'll be able to cope with that, and hopefully it will be a good match. We won't change the way we play, we'll just concentrate on our own game and let them trouble themselves about us.

"Their centre-forward plays for England, Karen Walker, she's scored so many goals it's unbelievable, so she's going to be a definite threat. There are quite a few of their players in the England squad, so they're a good team and we mustn't underestimate them."

And then after the Final, there's the Premier League to look forward to. Is Rachel looking forward to the new challenge?

"It's a very exciting prospect," she said, "It's going to be a lot harder throughout the whole of the season. We're going to have to be very consistent, so it's going to be a real test for us. It's obviously been our target since we went professional, and we've been working our way up the leagues. Now we've done that, our target is to win the Championship."

You can sense a tremendous spirit amongst the team, and also a quiet determination that this time they're going to go out and do the job properly. As Rachel went off to get some treatment on her ankle, she left a very positive message for all the supporters out there looking forward to some more silverware being hoisted next week.

"We're confident about Monday - we know that we can do it. As I say, we just want to get out there now and play. I hope it's a good game; I'd hate it to be a boring one for all the fans. I'd like it to be a nice exciting match that sees us lifting the trophy at the end!"

The AXA F.A. Women's Cup Final against Doncaster Belles is on Monday May 6th at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park, kick-off 1.00pm.