Redknapp excited by potential of women’s football ahead of FA Cup final

Manchester City’s players celebrate their first goal against Chelsea. (Reuters pic) 

BANGALORE: Former Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp believes the standard of women’s football has “gone through the roof” as a record attendance is expected when Manchester City take on West Ham United in the Women’s FA Cup final on Saturday.

More than 50,000 tickets have been sold and distributed for the showpiece event at Wembley, which should break the 45,423 domestic competition record set when Chelsea beat Arsenal in last year’s final.

Recent months have seen a remarkable increase in popularity for the women’s game across Europe’s major leagues.

Atletico Madrid’s game against Barcelona in March smashed the world record for the highest attendance in women’s club soccer as 60,739 supporters turned out at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium. In Italy a league record 39,027 watched Juventus play Fiorentina in Serie A.

“What has happened in recent years to the women’s game has been spectacular,” Redknapp told BetVictor.

“It’s come on leaps and bounds and the standard of the top teams has gone through the roof. The recent attendance records around Europe speak volumes and we should be in for a superb summer with the Women’s World Cup (in France).

“As for Saturday’s FA Cup final, it’s going to be another wonderful day at Wembley and I’m sure the fans will be there in numbers watching on.”

Manchester City are bidding to add a second trophy to their cabinet this season after clinching the League Cup in February, while West Ham are in their first FA Cup final, in their maiden season as a professional club.

Although Nick Cushing’s City missed out on a domestic treble having guaranteed a second-place finish behind champions Arsenal in the Women’s Super League, they could still finish the league season unbeaten.

“Manchester City are obviously the favourites, having just missed out on the title and won the League Cup this year, but I’m sure West Ham will give them a tough time,” Redknapp added.

City beat West Ham twice in the Super League this season, including a convincing 7-1 victory at home, but Cushing is not taking his opponents lightly.

“In football that’s always a danger, we’ve all seen games when the so-called underdog wins,” Cushing told a news conference on Friday.

“(But) we know the 7-1 game here wasn’t a true reflection of West Ham, we know it will be a difficult game. It’s a final, a one-off game, anyone can win.”