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Aston Villa Ladies captain sets sights on FA Cup Final

Beth Merrick was in Birmingham today for the third round draw

SSE Women's FA Cup - Round 1 Draw Photo by Lynne Cameron - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Aston Villa Ladies have drawn Cambridge United in the third round of the Women's FA Cup, but last year's quarter finalists have higher ambitions this year, according to captain Beth Merrick.

This year, the draw will take place at various locations across the country, and today was the turn of Birmingham's Broadway Academy school. Villa Ladies captain Beth Merrick was on hand to assist two pupils in drawing the 24 teams remaining in the cup. Speaking after the draw, Merrick said:

"With everything that goes on in the FA Cup, anything can happen, you see it in the women's and men's games.

"To get to the quarters (in 2016), doing what we did, was brilliant. But that's not where we want to be. We want to be higher. We want to be an underdog team that pushes towards the final and play at such a prestigious place as Wembley.

"To get to Wembley, is an incentive for any football player, no matter what team you're at.

"Everybody loves the FA Cup, the magic of it. Teams from lower down can come up and beat the bigger teams."

SSE Women's FA Cup - Round 1 Draw
Aston Villa Ladies' Beth Merrick helps out with the draw.
Photo by Lynne Cameron - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Having drawn FA Women's Premier League South East Division 2 side Cambridge, Villa will be hoping that in this case, a giant killing won't take place. Indeed, Merrick won't be taking Cambridge lightly.

"It presents a different challenge to us.

"So it's a game we've got to be switched on for."

A Women's Super League Division 2 side, Aston Villa Ladies are targeting promotion to the top tier, after finishing the 2016 season in 7th place. Despite several impressive results, including a 4-0 win over Watford Ladies at Villa Park, Merrick's Villa side are looking to improve.

"The season just gone is one that as a team, and as a club, we were not happy with.

"I know I stood here last year and said promotion was our target, but it really is. For a team like Aston Villa, we need to be pushing seriously hard for promotion.

"With the results that we had last year, we know they're not good enough, so they will be the inspiration to go and do better this year.

"Pre-season has begun, and the girls have already been put through our paces and it's set the tone for the rest of the season.

"Everyone's come back in with the right attitude, right commitment and right desire."

The draw took place at Broadway Academy due to its partnership with Teach First, a charity supported by Women's FA Cup sponsors SSE. The charity aims to address educational inequalities in English and Welsh schools, with sport a crucial part of a balanced education, according to the school's headteacher, Ron Skelton. He said:

"We believe that getting our students into sports, such as football, and activities like the Duke of Edinburgh awards, has had a really positive effect on their academic performance.

"Hence why we invest heavily in sport, and particularly girls' sport. It can have a huge impact, particularly on those students from the inner city."

SSE Women's FA Cup - Round 1 Draw
Beth Merrick, along with pupils from the Broadway Academy.
Photo by Lynne Cameron - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

And Merrick, from Lichfield, was delighted to see the level of opportunities that the girls at the school were afforded, compared to that which she was offered as a pupil. The former England U19 international said:

"To be a local girl, seeing girls that are younger than me, on a similar path to myself, at occasions like this is massive.

"As a woman I'm trying to promote the women's game because it wasn't the same when I was younger. So to see them having the opportunities they have now, is great."

Tickets for the SSE Women's FA Cup final can be found here.