All week here at 7500 to Holte, we’ll be featuring news, interviews, writing, and podcasting about the Aston Villa Ladies team. On Sunday, they get to play their first Super League 2 match at Villa Park, and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to highlight the squad.
Beth Merrick is one of the biggest stars of AVLFC. The midfielder came up through the Villa development program and has been with the club for nearly ten years. She is consistently one of the strongest performers on the pitch, and was awarded for her efforts by being named captain for the club’s trip to Italy earlier this year.
We got the chance to ask Beth a few questions and luckily for us, she took the time to give some great answers, so without any edits here is our conversation!
In September you got to play against Brescia Women in Italy. You said that before the match you were "the most nervous I'd ever been." What made that match so special to you?
I always have a lot of nerves before a game but they are a good thing. The Brescia game was a huge opportunity given to us by the club, but also to test ourselves against a different culture of football as well as Champions League opposition. The crowd was also massive with smoke bombs, a proper European atmosphere we have never experienced, late at night. On top of that, I was captain for that game which adds a little bit more weight to my shoulders but I couldn't be more proud of that game.
The team's form has been a bit erratic this season. There have been some big wins and near-misses, and then there have been some let-downs in matches that everyone seems to think you could have won. What's at the heart of that? Does the team just need more time to come together?
I think we only have ourselves to blame for consistency. The fixtures haven't been kind to us in terms of picking up momentum with long breaks everywhere. But there's times when we have all the chances and aren't clinical enough, then there has been times where we have played two different halves of football. It’s something we work hard to rectify, but it hasn't gone for us this season. It makes next season an important season for the club, trying to ensure we limit the mistakes we may have had this time round. The quality in the squad is the best I've seen and on its day should fear no one, so that's something to build on.
Okay, you're a Wolves fan. We can forgive you for that. But does that make the chance to play at Villa Park less special because it's enemy turf (please don't remind us about the miserable derby draw)?
I've had a Wolves season ticket for around 13 years now, it's something I was born into and love. I moved to Villa at 12 so I'm coming into my tenth season at the club. Villa are special to me and are a massive part of my life. I love the women's section but also the male side of the game. The first result I will look for is Villa, I follow them as if they are my own club. Playing at Villa Park is a massive honour, and the surface is like a carpet. That game is huge for me personally playing at a stadium as prestigious as it is. So no it certainly isn't less special, more so if anything.
Following you on twitter is always a treat. You're enthusiastic, fun, and always positive. But I think what impresses me the most is the way you interact with young fans, like here. What is it like being a role model for young girls who just want to play football like you do?
It really is mad to think that I could be a role model to young girls. When I was growing up, women's football was nowhere near on the platform it is now so I had all male role models. It means a huge amount to be able to inspire girls by doing something I love and am very passionate about. It shows the growth of women's football. For my name to be on the back of anyone's shirt is incredible. When our supporters sing your name, girls want your autograph or you get tweets from fans....it means a lot to me and love reading them all. To know we have a following of fans like we do that are loyal and growing in size is a huge achievement for us. Long may it continue!
Our deepest thanks to Beth for taking the time to answer our questions. If you want to get the chance to watch Beth and the rest of the AVLFC squad play, you can see them at Villa Park this Sunday at 2 PM. Tickets can be found here, and most are only £5. If you’re in the over-65 or under-18 groups, your ticket is only £1! Go out and support the ladies in the last match of their season!