Hayley Ladd column: Big camp for Wales with 200th international

Hayley Ladd sport columnist graphic

Venue: Sportni Park, Lendava Date: Friday, 22 October Kick-off: 19:15 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Two Wales, full commentary on all frequencies on BBC Radio Wales, live streaming on Cymru Fyw and live (text and watch) coverage on the BBC Sport website

In her second BBC Sport column, Wales’ Hayley Ladd looks ahead to Wales’ 200th international, discusses her teammates’ anti-abuse video and reflects on the start of the season at Manchester United.

It is another huge camp for us, both in terms of our aims to qualify for the World Cup and the fact our next match is our 200th official international.

We have made exactly the start we wanted by taking six points from our opening two games and now we want to keep building on that as we target the next six.

We are expecting another tough camp with Slovenia away on Friday and then Estonia at home, but we really feel positive about the momentum we are building.

We are a developing side, but one I strongly believe is going to peak at the right time.

Slovenia beat Estonia 4-0 in their other qualifier

Slovenia a really tough test

Slovenia is definitely going to be a tough match, we know that beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is the second seeds against the third and they have shown how good they are already.

We were keeping one eye on Slovenia v France in their last match in our last camp, a game France won 3-2 thanks to a last-minute goal, so we know this is very tough, they are a good side and we are away from home as well.

We know what we are up against but we are in a good place and with every camp, we feel like we are building that little bit more and building a really formidable playing style.

Slovenia ran France very close, we know the threat they pose and we know how, hopefully, we are going to nullify them.

For us having a fully-fit squad is hugely important, so we feel really lucky in that regard.

It probably does affect us more than we would like to say when we get an injury to a key player, which happened a lot in the last campaign.

It is really strong for us to have a fully-fit squad, it means lots of competition for places, which really pushes our team.

Jess Fishlock and Angharad James are both in a really intense part of their season in the National Women’s Super League in the USA and Sophie Ingle has also been having a congested time with the Champions League, so it’s a credit to them as athletes that they are all here and available and raring to go for Wales.

We are all raring to go.

Laura McAllister (back row, second right) and Kath Morgan (front row, second left) before Wales' game against Greece in the 1996-97 season
Wales’ squad in the 1996-97 season

‘For them’

Slovenia is a big occasion as well as a big game, because it is our 200th official international.

It gives us a chance to do it ‘for them’ as part of our for her, for them and for us slogan I spoke about in my last column.

“I think the ‘for them’ campaign is so powerful, because in order for us to move forward effectively we do need to honour all those players that paved the way for us.

They have overcome great amounts of inequality and unfair treatment to allow us to prosper. We don’t take that lightly and we will carry that with us throughout this campaign and beyond that.

It’s so much better than when I was breaking into the squad, we had so many players, really good international players, not able to train full time, so it makes us want to prosper for them as well.

For us qualifying would be the ultimate celebration for them, that’s the achievement we want, in tribute to them.

Tackling online abuse

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) and Welsh Government have launched a joint education programme to take on online hate towards girls and women and I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates who featured in the video to introduce it.

The FAW and Welsh Government say education is needed “on the negative impact online hate speech and misogyny can have on women and girls, not only in football, but across society” and I couldn’t agree more.

The subject of misogyny and online abuse, it resonates with every single player in the squad. There is no two ways about it, we have all encountered it and playing women’s football, still encounter it.

But now as players we are better equipped to deal with it and to ignore it.

It is great to see the girls breaking it down and dealing with the subject in such a positive way, as they have in that video.

The fact it’s going to be used as an educational tool, with a focus particularly on school children, hopefully that is a way of the campaign breaking through and raising awareness.

It’s a great place to start and hopefully as women playing a high level sport, we can try and change people’s minds and make them think about how they view things.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo rejoined Manchester United after spells with Real Madrid and Juventus

A big signing at United

Obviously the return of Cristiano Ronaldo has created a big excitement at my club side Manchester United.

On our side of it, all the girls were really buzzing, it creates a big atmosphere at the club when you sign a player like that.

Hopefully it’s a sign Manchester United as a club are heading in the right direction.

In terms of the women’s side and the start we have made to the Women’s Super League season, I feel United are similar to Wales in the sense that we are building, but there have been really good signs with some recent results and we feel we are heading in the right direction.

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