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Women's Football News
It has been a season of rapid growth for SSE Women's FA Cup finalists West Ham - and no one player symbolises that remarkable development more than young attacker Rosie Kmita.
A summer signing from London Bees, Kmita, 24, has quickly moved from bit-part player to a crucial figure in the Hammers' first season as a professional club, starring on the flanks as part of the run to the May 4th showdown against Manchester City at Wembley.
The showpiece occasion will cap a remarkable 12 months both for West Ham as a club and Kmita as an individual, with the speedy winger admitting she didn't properly understand the intricacies of the game before signing with the Rush Green-based outfit. The former Tottenham Hotspur youth prospect has hailed manager Matt Beard and experienced left-back Claire Rafferty as key influences behind her shot to stardom.
"I don't think I understood the game properly before this year," Kmita said. "There was a lot I needed to learn, and it's taken me the whole season. I've had to learn to be patient.
"Matt sat me down and told me not to be hard on myself. The players have been amazing with me when things aren't going right. It's about me learning how they cope with those situations and taking it on board.
"Being around these girls, you pick up their habits. I feel my development has really peaked. I look to Claire (Rafferty) because I've roomed with her. She's a big one for me mentally, just making sure I'm not overthinking things. She plays behind me as well so she's always in my ear letting me know where to be.
"But they've all helped me through a lot. I'm grateful for them.
"We've got the right group of players to compete at this level, but I am surprised at how quickly it's fallen into place. There are no egos. We're all just ourselves, we all get on and there are no real cliques.
"Everyone knows City are an unbelievable side. They've been together for years now and know what they're good at. We'll show them respect, but at the end of the day, we must focus on ourselves.
"People ask about City but it's our moment too. We have the right players to go and give them a go and win the cup. At the end of the day, I never thought stepping out onto the Wembley pitch would even happen, so I'll take that with both hands."
Lifelong Iron Kate Longhurst is confident West Ham will not buckle under the pressure of the big occasion as they bid to cap a fairytale year with SSE Women's FA Cup final success over Manchester City. In a remarkable first campaign as a professional outfit, the Hammers have surpassed all expectations, defying the odds to set up a final shown with the high-flying Citizens at Wembley. Pitted against a star-studded line up containing internationals from all over the globe, West Ham head into the showpiece occasion as heavy underdogs.
"Manchester City have got a lot of good players and we know that. It's not about highlighting one or two because they're all strong," said Longhurst. "We're going to have to be at our best, but we believe that we can challenge anyone.
"It's an FA Cup final at the end of the day, you never know what pressures other players are under. We've got nothing to lose - there's not one person who's expecting us to win, and we're happy with that because that we've just got to go out and do our best. If we do that then I'm sure we can really challenge them and hopefully get the cup.
"We're confident in our own ability and know what we can do on our day. We've got a lot of pace going forward, and on a big pitch that will help us. We're excited so we've got to go out on enjoy ourselves, playing the game and not the occasion.
"We like big occasions, we want to play in these games. There's no point being scared because you don't know how often these opportunities come around, so we're going to make the most of it."
Despite a glittering stint at the top level also taking in Millwall Lionesses and Chelsea, Longhurst chose to swap the stability of an established club in Liverpool for Matt Beard's newly professional side over the summer. A West Ham supporter since her youth, the decision to move has already paid dividends for the 29-year-old, with an SSE Women's FA Cup final just rewards for taking the plunge.
"It was a big decision to come to a team starting its first year professionally, but I'm a big West Ham fan," she added. "Being a West Ham fan, you never expect to go to Wembley with the team you support!
"It will be an emotional time for me and my family as well. I saw my dad cry in the semi-final and I've never seen that before. I've won the league a couple of times with Liverpool and been to an FA Cup final and lost but winning the competition with West Ham would be the biggest thing that I've done in my career."
As the energy behind women's football, SSE's ambition is to support girls of all ages in England, helping them join in football from grassroots to the elite level. For more information on SSE's sponsorships and activities visit sse.co.uk.
by Patrick Boyland, Sportsbeat
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