RACHEL Yankey has backed Birmingham City Women to upset the established order and go all the way in this season’s SSE Women’s FA Cup.
The Blues, champions in 2012, are the only team in the last eight editions of the famous competition to break the dominance of Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Marc Skinner’s side, who got their FA WSL campaign off to a winning start against Everton at the weekend, came within a whisker of glory in the 2017 final but lost out to City.
But as a nine-time winner, Arsenal legend Yankey knows exactly what it takes to lift the trophy and reckons Birmingham are the team to watch this season.
“Birmingham have come close recently and they’re an exciting prospect this year again,” said Yankey, speaking at SSE’s Play on the Pitch event at Wembley Stadium.
“They’re a club that don’t have the finance of Arsenal or City, but they definitely have the talent.
“In their squad they’ve got the work rate you need to get through those tough cup ties and keep going when the fixtures build up towards the end of the season.
“They’re my top tip to upset a few of the big teams this season.”
FA WSL, the top tier of women’s football game in this country, underwent a restructuring over the summer and is now made up of 11 fully professional clubs.
Yankey says the mass move to full-time will only sharpen the competitive edge of the SSE Women’s FA Cup.
“I think the changes will benefit the cup competitions and I hope they do,” she said.
“If you can have every team being professional, training every day, that’s going to be even things out.
“Not every team has the same backing but if they have the same pitch time and same opportunities to train as a team, it’s going to help you grow and develop.”
Yankey, capped 129 times by her country, earned her UEFA A coaching qualification last year and has recently taken up a backroom role at FA WSL side London Bees.
On Sunday she guided a group of young girls from the SSE Wildcats Scheme, hailing from Pirton in Hertfordshire, through a session at Wembley.
The group of 25 youngsters, aged five to 11, were chosen from 900 projects across the country to run out on the hallowed turf and enjoy a stadium tour.
Yankey said: “Women and young girls now have the opportunity to experience Wembley and one day, who knows, I might be watching them run out playing for England.
“It’s a chance for them to go away inspired, work on their game and improve in the future.”
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