Tottenham always believed in FA Cup dream – Ashleigh Neville

Tottenham always believed in FA Cup dream – Ashleigh Neville

Ashleigh Neville insists Tottenham always had belief they could reach a maiden Women’s FA Cup final this season and are now determined to finish the journey with silverware at Wembley.

Spurs face 2023 runners-up Manchester United at the national stadium on Sunday with a new winner of the competition guaranteed.

It has been a remarkable turnaround for Tottenham in Robert Vilahamn’s debut campaign in charge after they battled relegation last season and finished ninth.

Full-back Neville quit teaching to pursue a full-time football career with Spurs in 2017, when they had just secured promotion to the second tier, and seven years later they are about to play at a sold-out Wembley for the first time.

“We were playing at Cheshunt in front of like 20, 30 people with no grass. That’s where we were and I’m very grateful for where we’ve come to now,” the 31-year-old reflected.

“For the club and for me personally, where I’ve come from with Spurs, it’s a massive game.

“We’ve obviously already made history, but hopefully we can come home with some silverware to show our hard work and it’d be really nice.”

The Wembley dream started back in January when Vilahamn revealed his own aspirations to make the final ahead of Tottenham’s fourth-round tie at home to Sheffield United.

Assistant Vicky Jepson took things further when she mocked up a picture of the Spurs bus on its way to Wembley with each stop a different round.

Neville added: “Vicky took it upon herself to show this image and it’s been great. It’s our little Tottenham bus and the journey we’ve come on.

“Every time we came in after playing one of the FA Cup games, the bus was moving along the journey and it was great seeing it.

“They (Vilahamn and Jepson) always had belief. I think the team then, I think we had that belief to get to that final.

“And we had some easy games, some people say, and then you come up against the likes of Man City where you come back from being 1-0 down and then beat them on penalties.

“You’ve got to beat the best to be the best. So, I think the team deserve to be there and I think Robert and Vicky have kind of fed that through everyone from the start, which is great.”

Becky Spencer had a key role in the shoot-out win over Manchester City, Spurs’ first victory over the current Women’s Super League leaders in four attempts this season.

It has helped Spencer reach another domestic final but she laughed off talk of a repeat of 2012, when the Jamaica goalkeeper starred to help Birmingham clinch the trophy with a 3-2 win on penalties over Chelsea.

Of course, if it did come to a penalty shoot-out, then hopefully I can step up to the plate again.

Tottenham goalkeeper Becky Spencer

“I don’t mind penalty shoot-outs but I hope and I’d want us to win in normal time,” Spencer admitted.

“Of course, if it did come to a penalty shoot-out, then hopefully I can step up to the plate again.”

United are looking to secure a first major trophy since the team was launched in 2018, having been beaten 1-0 by Chelsea when they made their debut appearance in the final last season.

Forward Nikita Parris, United’s top scorer this season with 16 goals in all competitions, won the Women’s Super League, two FA Cups and two League Cups with Manchester City before in 2019 joining Lyon, where her trophy haul included the Champions League.

She is yet to claim further club silverware since returning to English football in 2021, having initially been with Arsenal for a year then signing for United in 2022.

And Parris told the PA news agency: “I think regardless of where I’ve been, the time spent away, the FA Cup has always been special. For me, I want to continue to win silverware and as a club, it would be massive and hopefully help us kick on.

“There’s so many different parts to this game, it’s going to be a test for the team. Many people will say we’re no longer the underdogs like we were last year, but I think we have to focus on what we can do and control.

“To win your first trophy will help build success in the future. You need to know what it takes to win.”