Ludlow relishing the Rodney Parade clash in front of a capacity home crowd

Image by Matthew Lofthouse

by Callum Ellis

JAYNE Ludlow has no regrets over the Football Association of Wales’ choice of venue for her side’s final World Cup qualifier against England.

Newport’s Rodney Parade has been criticised in some quarters because of its limited capacity, but that is a positive for Ludlow.

Wales hosted Russia at Newport Stadium in their penultimate qualifier, as well as playing at the Cardiff City Stadium and Swansea’s Liberty Stadium during the campaign.

They host Phil Neville’s Lionesses in front of a sell-out crowd in their final qualifier on Friday evening – a game Neville has dubbed a ‘grudge match’.

“It’s our home game and our choice,” said Ludlow in her final interview before the biggest game of her managerial career so far.

“Right now, a 30,00 stadium probably wouldn’t be filled. If it was filled, it would be filled with English people and that’s not necessarily what we want for this game.

“It’s about a routine that we’re happy with. For people who haven’t grown up in Wales, there are far worse surfaces that we could have chosen to play on.”

Wales currently sit one point ahead of England in Group One, but either team could seal automatic qualification for the World Cup with a win at Rodney Parade.

“If you look at past campaigns for that group, they would have qualified by now. We respect their playing group and they have a different challenge to us.

“They haven’t achieved what has been expected of them but they still have two games left.”

Ludlow’s side kicked off their campaign by travelling to Kazakhstan and Russia, but conclude their fixtures with their third consecutive home game.

“As a team, for us it’s great [travelling]. It’s more bonding time and we get to know each other in different ways. Away games are great in that aspect, but home games are what we all want to play for.

“The fact that we’ve had a run of these games at the end of the campaign has really helped us.

“The targets have changed and we made sure that when we got to the last game, we still had a chance.”

The former Arsenal midfielder also reflected on her own international playing career, and discussed the developments of the team since hanging up her boots in October 2012.

“My international career was a very different environment, which I enjoyed but it’s gone. It’s changed for many different reasons.

“I continue to focus on what’s next and that’s what I do. I’m smiling lots today because of what’s coming in the future.

“It hits home that the things we’ve put in place are working. This project is far bigger with the things we’re trying to do in Wales right now – it is bigger than our national senior team.”

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