Four-time Women’s FA Cup winner Casey Stoney admits she will be looking on enviously when Manchester City and Birmingham City do battle for the historic trophy at Wembley.
Stoney, 34, has enjoyed a long and illustrious career in a game which has changed almost beyond recognition since she started out with Arsenal back in 1999.
She first lifted the SSE Women’s FA Cup at Selhurst Park in 2001 after a 1-0 win with Arsenal over Fulham in front of 13,000 people but last year raised the trophy aloft at the home of football with nearly 33,000 fans watching on.
After that success Stoney moved to Liverpool who were eventually knocked out of this year’s competition at the semi-final stage by Manchester City.
The Citizens now face Birmingham City in the SSE Women’s FA Cup on May 13 and Stoney is encouraging the players to soak in every moment.
“It’s the biggest day in the women’s football calendar without a doubt, with SSE’s sponsorship and it being at Wembley, you can’t help but get excited,” she said.
“You have to focus on the preparation but make sure you enjoy the occasion too because you never know if you will get there again.
“I have been fortunate to win four cup finals in my career but there’s was nothing like last year, it was a dream come true to lift the trophy at Wembley.
“It’s the home of football; it’s the place you dream of when you’re growing up. To have the final there makes it the absolute pinnacle.
“Having your family walk down Wembley Way to a game that you are playing in – you don’t dare dream of those things as a child.
“The final at Wembley is a great advert for the women’s game.”
SSE’s partnership with the FA, announced in 2015, is the first major sponsorship of the Women’s FA Cup, and also includes funding for a country-wide programme of girls-only football activity.
In 2016, more than 1,000 girls took part in the FA SSE Girls’ Football Participation Programme while a new initiative, SSE Wildcats, is designed to inspire girls aged between five and 11-years-old to get involved with the sport.
This summer will also see England’s players aim to further inspire a new generation when they head to the Netherlands for the women’s Euro 2017 finals.
And Stoney, who has been picked in Mark Sampson’s England squad, revealed that the excitement is as big as ever with the squad optimistic for a successful tournament.
“It never gets old, there’s always that nerve-racking time before selection but when you are in, you work even harder in training to make it a success,” she added.
“I am excited by the team I genuinely believe we can go and do well. Hopefully we can inspire the next generation with a big success.
“We saw in 2015, when we came third in the World Cup, the knock on effect it had, it raised participation and changed perceptions.
“If you change perceptions the parents will take their daughters to the practice sessions and teachers will start the after-school clubs. It’s important we have success because it drips down.
“Not every girl will play for England but they should all get the opportunity to play.”
SSE is the energy behind women’s football. To find out more about how SSE are supporting women’s football visit https://www.sse.co.uk/about-us/sponsorship/sport/womens-football