Arsenal Ladies defender Jemma Rose says the club’s natural ability to fight for trophies is what brought her to the club last season – and she’s looking forward to battling for more this season.
Rose shot to prominence with some top performances for a solid Bristol Academy side before being snapped up by Pedro Losa last winter.
Since the end of last season she’s become a fully capped England international and can’t wait to get going against Reading Women on Wednesday night.
I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “It’s been a really long pre-season but I think this year is looking really exciting. It’s really important to get off to a good start; we’ve got a newly-promoted side, they kind of remind me of the team I had at Bristol – that team morale which I really believe in. Hopefully, we can get off to a good start on Wednesday before we think about anything else.”
Pre-season hasn’t been all that smooth for some of the teams that are filled with international stars – Arsenal included.
With England out in America and the youth sides in La Manga, plus Olympic qualifiers going on around the world, Rose says Arsenal had only a handful of players in training at some stages.
“Oh, my God,” laughed the defender. “The last few weeks there have been about four or five of us, so it’s been really tough. When the girls got back last week it was strange to get back into contact because we’d really been doing a lot of circuit training. But it’s been really good to get everyone back and start preparing for this week.”
Arsenal left it late to continue their tradition of ending every season with some silverware, beating Notts County Ladies in the Continental Cup final last November.
Midfielder Jordan Nobbs ended a season full of injury frustration with two superb goals and has continued that form in pre-season. Young star Leah Williamson was another who suffered several injuries last term and Rose admits that consistency and fitness will play a big part this season.
“That’s our main aim this season [consistency] but there’s a lot of competition for places in our team. It’s really healthy for our team to keep everyone fit and ready this season. Obviously, we were really disappointed for the Dutch girls not to make Rio – you could see it in their eyes that they were heartbroken – but they’ve got to do their job for Arsenal now and that starts now.
“Historically, Arsenal are known for winning trophies and being one of the best women’s teams. That definitely brought me to the club, as soon as I knew they wanted to sign me it was a no-brainer. We always aim high and we always want to win things; the FA Cup is no different, the Continental Cup is no different and neither is the league.”
Another sign of the continuing progression of women’s football is that Arsenal Ladies now have their own dedicated facilities within London Colney, where all the Gunners teams train.
The facility has new changing rooms, a lounge area and offices for the staff to analyse training sessions and matches, and Rose says it makes her even more excited for the season to start.
She added: “The new facilities are amazing – it’s been a long time coming. We train full-time together now, we go in the morning and we eat together, we train together, we do gym together and it’s really bringing the girls together now. It really makes you more excited for things to get going.”
One neat little change brought in by manager Pedro Losa is the way the players are situated in the changing rooms. Whereas most clubs hang their shirts by number order, their boss has decided that players will be ordered by how long they’ve been at the club, giving youngsters the motivation to one day sit where the likes of Emma Byrne and Kelly Smith currently reside.
“The shirt numbers was something we all jumped at it when it was mentioned, me especially,” admitted Rose.
“I look up to the likes of Emma Byrne and Kelly Smith and I know a lot of the other young girls do, too. It’s strange though, obviously, you’ve got someone like Fara Williams coming in and she’s the most capped England player and she’s sitting at the bottom of the changing room!”