On Sunday 4 April, while most were recovering from overindulgence at the dinner table, Jade Cross was celebrating with her Wolves Women teammates after reaching the third round of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup. In a thrilling match against Nottingham Forest Women, favourites to win given their Premier League status – one above Wolves Women, it took extra time and penalties to secure victory.
For Jade, however, 90 minutes should have been enough. “We were definitely the better team and deserved the win – everyone played a fantastic game,” she says. “We were the underdogs going into the match, but the way we played we should have been able to close it out in normal time. Sometimes we just like to put ourselves through the mill!”
Yet, with the FA Cup third round against Watford only days away, it’s not team tactics that are keeping Jade focused, but rather her work as an account assistant as part of Crawford’s Finance team in Birmingham.
“To be honest, I don’t try to think about the next game until the actual day of the match, because you run the risk of overthinking it. So, my plan on Saturday will be to relax as much as I can and then turn on the focus on Sunday morning as I get myself ready for the Watford game.”
It has been a challenging run-up to the FA Cup qualifiers for every team involved – and for Wolves Women a particularly frustrating one. For the second season in a row while top of the league, the season has been voided due to COVID-19. Training sessions have become Zoom-based activities with fitness plans designed to keep every player match-fit during lockdown.
“The team hasn’t been able to train together for the last four months,” she explains. “In fact, before our match against Nottingham Forest, we only had one week to prepare, which involved two training sessions. It was the first time that we’d met up, so the first session was a bit frantic. Everyone was so glad to be back on the pitch and we all just wanted the ball – so it was a bit like an under 10s training session!”
Despite the challenges of lockdown, Jade is quick to highlight how great the management team at Wolves Women has been in keeping the fitness and motivation levels up.
“Management has been fantastic throughout,” she says. “The virtual training sessions have been great, and they’ve made sure we’ve maintained our fitness. And they’ve also been working on maintaining our team spirit by doing activities like those that Crawford has been doing – Friday night quizzes and bingo evenings – which have been great for morale and keeping us motivated.”
Another great motivator is the fact that Jade’s twin sister Emma also plays for Wolves Women. Over lockdown, they have been training together and that sibling rivalry has helped them both push that little bit harder. “We compete at pretty much everything,” Jade admits. “It’s always been like that and it probably goes back to before we were born!”
With the 2021 National League Division 1 season void, the FA Cup is now the only opportunity for Wolves Women to take to the pitch. As a striker, this might create a bit more pressure, although as Jade’s incredible goal tally over the last six seasons as part of the first team attests, she doesn’t let the pressure get to her.
“You have to accept the fact that you are not going to score with every chance that you get, it’s just about being able to stay calm and focused, knowing that another opportunity to shoot will come your way. It’s about winning as a team and my part in that team as a striker is to score goals.”
That level of focus has also had a positive impact on her performance at work. She joined Crawford almost four years ago straight out of university and is now well on her way to becoming a qualified accountant and is already a mainstay of the Finance team. “I definitely think that mental side of the game has a positive impact on my performance both on and off the pitch. You have to be focused on everything that you do, whether that’s in the workplace or during a match.”
And on Sunday at 2.00 pm as the whistle blows to start the third-round match, and the focus is on Wolves Women, Jade will have the full support of Crawford behind her. As Jonathan Pulley, UK Regional Financial Controller at Crawford, says, “At work, Jade is focused, methodical and diligent… while on the football pitch she is a goal machine!”