Wales winger Natasha Harding opens up on watershed moment for women’s national team as new kit is unveiled

Harding says adding names to Wales players' shirt was the turning point

Wales winger Natasha Harding speaks The Art of the Wales Shirt exhibition at St Fagans National Museum. Image: Lewis Mitchell
Wales winger Natasha Harding speaks at The Art of the Wales Shirt exhibition at St Fagans National Museum. Image: Lewis Mitchell

by Callum Ellis

WALES winger Natasha Harding has opened up on a watershed moment for the women’s national team.

The Reading favourite was speaking at the unveiling of Wales’ new shirts.

Jayne Ludlow’s side will be the first to don the new kit in their Euro 2021 qualifier against Northern Ireland in Belfast on Tuesday.

But it was January this year which proved to be the turning point for Harding and her team-mates.

Wales were preparing for a friendly against Italy when the players were surprised to discover that their names had been added to the back of their shirts for the first time.

It was a well kept secret that was hidden from the squad by kit-man, Michael Murphy.

They were eventually undone by a strong Italian performance, falling to a 2-0 defeat in snowy conditions. Although the result, as Harding admits, was insignificant.

“We didn’t even care about the result,” says Harding. “It was about the names on the back of the shirts.

“Even though it might seem like a minor detail to other people, we’ve been grafting for the last 12 years.

“Why can’t we have the right for people to know who we are? If you want to grow the game, you have to be seen and people have to know who you are.

“They can’t just say, ‘I want to be number seven’, because the next game, somebody else might be number seven.

“It was a massive turning point in Welsh women’s football and one that we’ve all worked really hard for.

“Some of us have been in four or five campaigns, so it’s a long time to graft.

“Our kit-man Mike Murphy kept it a secret and he knew what was going on. It was a great moment that I think we’ll all cherish.”

The new shirt was launched at the Football Association of Wales’ match-worn kit exhibition at St Fagans National Museum of History in Cardiff.

Wales winger Natasha Harding speaks The Art of the Wales Shirt exhibition at St Fagans National Museum. Image: Lewis Mitchell
Wales winger Natasha Harding speaks at The Art of the Wales Shirt exhibition at St Fagans National Museum of History. Image: Lewis Mitchell

And Harding said she is in favour of the new design, but played down the fact that the women’s team will wear the shirts before the men’s.

“I think it’s probably the best shirt that we’ve had in recent years,” she added. It is also one which has been tailored for the women’s team.

“But as much as people keep saying that the women are going to be the first ones to wear it, to us, it’s not a big deal.

“It’s the same shirt at the end of the day and it doesn’t matter who wears it first. It’s just fortunate that our fixture has fallen before the men’s.

“It’s aesthetically good to look at and we all wore it for the photoshoot we did on Friday which was nice.”

The new Wales shirt. Image: Lewis Mitchell
The new Wales shirt. Image: Lewis Mitchell

Wales could close the gap on Group C leaders Norway to just two points with a victory over Kenny Shiels’ side on Tuesday. Wales have also played a game less than the 2019 World Cup quarter-finalists.

But the 30-year-old will miss out on the trip to Belfast after sustaining an injury while playing for her club side.

“I can’t remember the last time I missed a Wales game,” says Harding.

“I haven’t been injured like this for about four or five years and I’ve had a good run, so it was inevitable.

“It’s hard and I hate missing any game, let alone a Wales game. It will be hard to watch but I have every faith in the girls to get three points.”