|SSE Women’s FA Cup final 2019|
|Teams: Manchester City v West Ham United Date: Saturday, 4 May Kick-off: 17:30 BST Venue: Wembley|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC One from 17:10 BST or on the Red Button, listen live on BBC Radio 5 live from 17:30 or follow via the BBC Sport website and app.|
Saturday’s Women’s FA Cup final will kick off three exciting years for the English women’s game, says England and Manchester City captain Steph Houghton.
After this summer’s World Cup, 2020 may see a Team GB Olympics women’s team, before England hosts Women’s Euro 2021.
Houghton’s side face West Ham at Wembley [17:30 BST kick-off] with hopes for a new competition-record crowd.
“We’re all sitting here thinking ‘how big can this game get?’ There’s been so much progression,” she told BBC Sport.
“There have been so many watershed moments in the past few years. The 2012 Olympics, playing at Wembley with 70,000 was definitely the turning point.
“The next three years are so exciting for women’s football in this country. We’ve got the World Cup coming up, we’ve got the Olympics potentially next year and then a home Euros in 2021.
“Success also brings interest and generates crowds. We need to continue being the best we can be in this country and getting the people through the gates.”
Organisers are hoping the attendance for Saturday’s final will surpass last year’s record of 45,423, with around 52,000 tickets understood to have been issued so far.
The final is being held at England’s national stadium for the fifth consecutive year, just over a month before the World Cup begins in France on 7 June.
‘No-one is expecting West Ham to win’
The Hammers are in their first final of the competition, in their maiden season as a professional club, while City are bidding to win the cup for a second time, following their success in 2017.
The London club, who moved up to the Women’s Super League from the third tier last summer after a successful licence application, beat Reading on penalties in April’s dramatic semi-final.
“We’ve got to play the game, not the occasion,” West Ham boss Matt Beard said. “We’ll do as much as we can to make sure the girls are relaxed and comfortable on the day.
“We’re going to go to Wembley on Friday, visit the dressing room and visit the stadium, so we can get that out the way, so when the players get there, they can just concentrate on their jobs.
“No-one is expecting us to win. [Victory] would be a remarkable end to a remarkable story. We got told in May last year that we would make it in to the top division, and pre-season was the start of July.
“Everyone here deserves enormous credit. If we can pull it off on Saturday, it’ll be an unbelievable achievement.”
Can City go season unbeaten?
City, who won the WSL league Cup in February, are yet to lose a domestic game this season, with just two matches remaining in all competitions.
Despite that league form, Nick Cushing’s second-placed side have missed out on the title, which was clinched by Arsenal last Sunday, with a game to spare.
“We’re disappointed in the outcome of the league but we’re proud of our form this year,” Cushing said. “Here it’s not about isolating individual trophies – it’s about continuing to be successful.”
City enjoyed 7-1 and 3-1 wins when they faced West Ham in the WSL earlier this campaign, but Cushing is not being complacent.
“We know for sure that 7-1 game here was not a true reflection of West Ham,” he added.
“Yes, we were good on the day, but they were probably disappointed with their performance. [This final] is a one-off game, which means that anybody can win.”
Beard – on his side’s 7-1 loss – added: “I would class that as a freak result. There were a few individual mistakes on the day that added to that.
“But we’re a completely different team [now]. Whoever turns up on Saturday will win the game.”
‘The whole club should celebrate’
The Hammers’ men’s side have a home game against Southampton on Saturday, but the club’s plea to move the Premier League fixture to avoid a clash with the Women’s FA Cup final was rejected.
The men’s match starts at 15:00 – just two-and-a-half hours before the women’s final – but West Ham say the Premier League told them any kick-off change would be a “potential inconvenience” to fans.
Nevertheless, West Ham Women’s managing director Jack Sullivan told BBC London that they had sold 5,000 tickets for final, separate to those fans who have purchased ‘general sale’ tickets.
“To end what has been an incredible season at Wembley, I don’t think it gets any better really,” he said.
“The whole football club should really celebrate getting to Wembley, not just the women’s team or the men’s team.
“It’s so important that we have that synergy, all driving towards the same goal of growing West Ham United.”