Ahead of 2 Cup finals for Linfield Ladies next week (Monday and Saturday) Linfieldfc.com caught up with Ashley Hutton, Linfield's senior Northern Ireland international captain with over 50 caps and 9 goals for her country.
1. Ashley, you have been with the Ladies team for a year now, how would you sum up your time here so far ?
"I have really enjoyed my time with the club. We had a difficult time last season. However, over the winter the staff worked very hard at bringing in a few players to strengthen the squad and as a group we worked very hard in pre-season and have reaped the rewards of that during the season. We are not satisfied though and are determined to give our best in the remaining games this season. We need to build on these foundations and remember it is the hard work that has got us here."
2. The remaining games include two cup finals against your previous clubs, how does it feel competing at that level with the team ?
"It's great for the team to be competing with both Crusaders and Glentoran. Both are experienced teams and know how to win leagues and cups as they have so often in the last ten years. We have had good results this year against both, certainly in the cups, but we also realise we still have a lot to do to be regular contenders. We have a young squad who are maturing and mentally stronger but we are still massive underdogs."
3. How do the team prepare for these games ?
"We work hard on our preparation. Ryan, (the manager) is meticulous in his approach. We all know our jobs and concentrate on carrying out his instructions. The backroom staff of Michelle, Davy and Mark Dickson all support and encourage the squad to give us the best possible chance of success."
4. What has been the highlight for you this season ?
"There are a few so far, winning our first senior trophy has been tremendous for the squad and the club. I came here to be challenged and to help the club improve. As a group of players and staff we have done well to date. The biggest highlight for me though is the fantastic team spirit and togetherness, everyone plays for each other, with no stars. We all have a job to do and the staff prepare us the best way possible. When you have that spirit, you always have a chance."
5. We have a young squad, what advice can you give to the younger players ?
"Basically, I encourage them to work hard at their game and to take each training session and game as an opportunity to learn and improve. I am fortunate enough that I have played at Arsenal, in Iceland and for the National team. I have worked hard at my game and made sacrifices to achieve those goals. We have players capable of achieving high levels and I would encourage them to do so.
6. It can't be all hard work though, I'm sure there are some lighter moments with the girls ?
Absolutely, we have a few characters in the team. Emma McAleese is forever dreaming up ways for team bonding and her tales of how famous players always want photographed with her, are legendary. She's a "confident winner" you know. As a team we have vowed to get a smile from Sarah Haddock and Danni Ennis. LoL We are also seeking donations to give Davy Welshman a Wayne Rooney hair treatment."