Aston Villa Ladies striker Kerri Welsh believes that Dave Stevens is an exceptional coach who gets the best out of his players.
At the beginning of the Spring Series, former head coach Joe Hunt left following their 3-2 victory over Watford on the opening day.
Although Ron Mellor officially took hold of the reigns for the remainder of the competition, however Stevens was already influential from the side lines.
He will take charge of his first game when the Women’s Super League 2 kicks off on Sunday 23rd September, yet he has already been working hard with the girls in pre-season.
Welsh said: “Dave is an exceptional coach.
“The impact he has had in a short amount of time in the Spring Series shows his ability as a coach. He demands nothing but 100% effort and work rate in every single session and that’s what he will get.
“He has ultimate respect from every single player and he has respect from us, it’s a two-way game in my opinion. He has an outstanding coaching team around him now in Sanks [Ian Sankey], Carly and Cozza all with many years’ experience which I think builds a strong foundation for success.
“I don’t want to big him up too much but I have worked with many good coaches throughout my career and I think he has to be up there with the best. He gets the best out of his players and certainly gets the best out of me.”
With a new man in charge, it’s a fresh start for the players and a chance to play a new way in the hope of gaining promotion to the top division.
Having struggled in the last few seasons to be consistent with their results, which ended with a sixth-place finish in 2016, they are aiming higher.
The striker said: “I think we have an extremely talented group of players here at Villa and I think we have underachieved massively in the last couple of seasons.
“But this year I hope we can fulfil our potential. Our ultimate aim is to play at the highest level which I think is every clubs aim in super league 2 but the togetherness of the group, attitudes, determination and passion to win and achieve is the best I think it’s ever been and it’s a very exciting time to be involved at Aston Villa.”
Welsh, who signed a new contract at the start of the Spring Series, has been unlucky with injuries in her career after sustaining an ACL injury.
She formed a great understanding with fellow forward Natasha Baptiste, which continued to grow over the course of the Spring Series.
She said: “I was very happy with the way my spring series finished. I bagged a couple of goals and formed a good partnership with my strike partner pepper [Baptiste] and I’m grateful for Dave showing faith in me and giving me an opportunity to get back to myself on the pitch again.
“I’m feeling very good at the moment and excited to get going with some pre-season games. It’s been a good start to pre-season for me and for the team and there is a good feeling around camp.
“Bring on the season.”
While Aston Villa Ladies crack on with their pre-season, England have been plying their trade out in Holland for the UEFA Women’s EURO.
Welsh said: “I think they could go far in the tournament.
“They will continue to build on their two performances so far and I’m sure they are growing in confidence. They have a very talented group of players and staff and I have no doubt they will go far, but in my opinion why can’t they go on and win it?”
England currently sit top of the group with six points after two games, before playing Portugal in the last fixture of Group D.
With two wins out of two, eight goals scored and none conceded, it is no surprise that they are favourites having come into this tournament as the third seed.
The Stoke-born forward said: “I don’t think they could have asked for much more than that could they? But I’m sure they will tell you the same, that the job is far from done.
“The whole country is behind them the same as I am and I’m looking forward to what is to come starting with Portugal and the games after that.”
In such a short space of time, women’s football has changed drastically. From the coverage of major tournaments, to the investment into the sport – there has been a rise since the World Cup triumph two years ago.
Many clubs in the top league of English women’s football, Women’s Super League 1, are now full-time professionals and players can now call this their job.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t stretched beyond WSL 1, leaving clubs like Welsh’s Villa as part-time players.
However, due to England’s success over the last few years, the game has developed massively.
She explained: “I didn’t ever think in my generation that the game would turn pro and have the coverage and support it getting right now so I think that just shows how far the game has come.
“These youngsters just starting out in the game now have real role models to aspire and look up to, and the more they achieve and perform on the big stages the more the game will grow.”