Claire Hakeman on this special Wolves team, making memories and rising up the leagues
Wolves Women knocked out Nottingham Forest last weekend on penalties. . (Photo by Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images)

Former Wolves Women defender Claire Hakeman says victory over Watford in the FA Women's Cup would be 'a massive achievement' for the club.

After a 'fantastic' win over Nottingham Forest, who are a division above Wolves, the Wanderers travel to Watford looking to cause another cup upset.

Hakeman believes the 'passion, drive and determination in Dan McNamara's squad means anything is possible on Sunday afternoon.

"Competing and making sure they give their best they can go on the day, anything can happen.

"There's so much passion, drive and determination in that Wolves team that you wouldn't deny them the chance. It's fine margins in football. An error on the day, lots of different things can happen. 

"An injury could play its part as well. We'll see. It'll be great for them to compete in these sort of games and I'm sure they'll go and give it a good account of themselves."

Like Wolves, Watford's season was curtailed earlier due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And like Wolves, they sat top of their league (FA Women's National League South) after winning six of their eight games.

The victory over Forest, who sit at the same tier as Watford, has shown they are capable of competing and beating teams above them, and Hakeman believes they have it in them to overcome the Hornets.

"They've got to keep the game tidy. If you look at their striker (Rosie Kmita) on Sunday, she scored a hat-trick and they'll have a good look at her, how they can maybe stop her impact.

"They've got decent players as well. Wolves were pretty patient on Sunday, once they settled into the game and dominated in spells but I think the key thing to come out of it would have been that they dominated.

"When the chances do come, they have to got to take them if they can, that'll be one thing they'll look at."

Last Sunday's heroics

Wolves returned to action for the first time in 112 days last weekend after their league campaign was ended early for the second year in a row meaning promotion the original way isn't possible. Despite appealing for promotion through the FA, the girls made an unforgettable memory in dramatic fashion last week.

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Bec Thomas' penalty save in the shoot-out caused emotional scenes within the Wolves camp and Hakeman resonated with that moment as a similar feeling to what they would feel if promotion was confirmed the correct way.

"The Forest game should fill them with confidence. Easily showed that they can compete with Forest, who are holding down a mid-table position in the league above. From looking at what I know about the league, the squad they have got now is way stronger than a Wolves side for a number of years.

"They have the strength in depth to at least hold their own and I think they would be competing at the top end of that league with the players they've got. All the things that are going on off-the-pitch, the things that are happening in terms of the training facilities and all the professionalism on and off the pitch, tells me they are going to attract even more players as they go along.

"It would have been really hard for Dan and the girls to keep themselves calm going into such a big game, knowing it was a one-off.

"I know Dan pushed the fact that the pressure was off Wolves, being a division below. He was definitely keen to push that, which was totally correct of them.

"You don't want the adrenaline to be too much so that the players are too much under pressure and don't perform. I think the players did themselves proud and they definitely did perform.

"I think for the squad, it's been tough for them being off for so long. The girls were great. They know the time was now for them and like Maca (Dan McNamara) said, they've missed out on these memories, so to get that moment on Sunday was almost like a replacement of how it would feel.

"You could hear them singing in the changing room afterwards, it reminded me of when we won the league. Maybe this Sunday isn't meant to be, but at least they've had those memories they've made together from a fantastic moment.

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"I think it's really disappointing for the girls [not to be promoted]. Not getting that moment, the moment of winning the league, looking at the position they were in both seasons, they would have gone onto win the league.

"Applying for it just isn't the same even if they got promoted. They won't get that moment. Someone sends a letter saying you're promoted, it's not the same as doing it on the pitch. I think they'll be disappointed but from the clubs perspective, it's really important that they do get promoted and go up."

1,500 people tuned in last Sunday as the club's official 'Wolves TV' streamed the game live on YouTube for supporters to back the girls and get involved in the women's team.

The success of the live stream is blatant and the coverage of the women's team is certainly increasing peoples awareness of the growth in the tram.

"The build-up and what's happened since has been fantastic. The Wolves main socials, the women's, plus the Wolves radio. Tim Spiers and Jacqui Oatley's podcast mentioned it, Nuno Espirito Santo mentioned it in his press conference.

"So it's just fantastic it's getting that sort of coverage and support. Obviously the fact they have been denied promotion a couple of years in a row, I think it's highlighted how well they are doing and all the things the club are doing, it continues in the future."

One Pack mentality

Victory over Watford will set up a fourth-round tie with Championship-side Blackburn Rovers, another huge occasion for Wolves. With focus on the trip to Watford, Hakeman is proud and impressed by the work done by the club.

"It's down to Dan and also down to the club as a whole. The work that Laura Nicholls (Head of Academy Operations) has done before the scenes and Steve Cullis, the foundation that has helped to put Wolves on a level and really worked hard to put the 'One Pack' mentality that seems to be embedded throughout.

"It's a good way of attracting players because they are playing at a standard where they aren't getting paid yet. But they've got so much to offer in terms of physio, strength and conditioning coaches and the facilities they are using. All these kind of things attract players, so hopefully it will mean in the future, people will be coming to Wolves and knocking on the door asking if they can have a trial.

"I think with this promotion, I don't think they will stop. I think they'll move up to the next level, aiming for the Championship."

And why shouldn't they? With the backing from the club, the support from the supporters and the belief created from stories like Leicester City's promotion to the Women's Super League, Wolves have every reason to go for the top.

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"Leicester came from the standard that Wolves were playing. I played against that team when they were on their way up, the same as Coventry United

"You look at what is happening with Birmingham City at the moment, they are in a great position and have been for a few years but the club backing is not there or isn't at the level that it has been for the last few years.

"It does make a huge difference in terms of whether the Blues players' are going to start moving on and where that club is going to go. If they get relegated, they are on the way down as clubs like Wolves are on the way up.

"Wolves are taking it seriously and they see the One Pack approach being integral to making sure the women team establish themselves in the highest level of women's football."

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