Aston Villa Women have confirmed that former Birmingham City Women manager Carla Ward is set to join as manager next month.
Words: Andrew Maddox | @MaddoxJourno
Aston Villa Women have announced former Birmingham City boss Carla Ward as their new manager.
The story was broken by Athletic reporter Katie Whyatt on Thursday evening. It came as a surprise to many as Ward was expected to take the vacant post at Arsenal, yet she has become the fifth person to directly cross the Second City divide in the last two years. Since 2019, Villa have poached Shania Hayles, Marisa Ewers, Emma Follis and Chloe Arthur from their bitter rivals.
Ward’s appointment at Villa may give some fans flashbacks to Alex McLeish’s appointment to the men’s team in 2011. Like the Scotsman, she has resigned as Birmingham boss to take over a troubled Villa side after the mass changes so far this summer. However, rest assured that she is one of the brightest rising stars in women’s football management.
Her record with Blues last season speaks for itself. While a finish of second bottom might seem unappealing, it was heavily expected that Blues would sink without a trace. Over the summer of 2020, Blues lost long-term captain Kerys Harrop and England star Lucy Staniforth among a rake of other first team players. They started the season with one of the thinnest squads in the league with just 17 senior players. Yet, Ward kept them afloat.
She was also dealt the most impossible circumstances to work in at Blues. First came the injuries. A day before Blues’ win over Villa in November, she had just ten fit players and was only able to name two substitutes on the day. Also, Blues’ away fixture with Spurs had to be abandoned because she did not have enough fit players to play the game. This resulted in an automatic 3-0 defeat for Blues against a relegation rival.
Furthermore, she was given minimal support by the board. The home match against Villa had to be called off five minutes before kick-off due to a frozen pitch. It later transpired that the Blues board knew about it days in advance yet refused to pay the £500 fee to get the game moved to St George’s Park. Ward’s squad also wrote to the board at the end of the season to complain about their facilities.
Lastly, she had battles with the league. Blues were forced to move to St George’s Park after the club’s catastrophic handling of the Villa game in February. This came to the confusion of many as Solihull Moors used the pitch the day before the announcement. Blues were also handed the controversial 3-0 defeat to Tottenham and were deducted a point in the final week of the season for fielding an ineligible player.
Despite the constant adversity of last season, Ward inexplicably kept Birmingham up. She achieved this by rallying the squad around her and drawing every bit out of the players she had. Ward made some excellent January signings, most notably Ruby Mace, to help keep them afloat. The squad fought for her and believed in her methods completely, while she was also nominated for Manager of the Season for her efforts. If she can replicate this form at Villa, then they are in for a strong season next time out.
Perhaps she won’t be the only movement across the Second City this summer, with the Birmingham City squad in disarray.