Author: Dafydd Jones
Publisher: Y Clwb Pêl Droed
Swansea City defender Tija Richardson believes the one-leg format of this year’s Champions League qualifiers will be of benefit to the Swans, ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Apollon.
Ian Owen’s side travel to face the Cypriot side in a first qualifying round tie that will be settled on the night.
“It’s a massive achievement even to win a game in the Champions League,” Richardson insisted.
“But this year, because it’s only the one game, anything can happen and it’s what you do on that day and how you perform.
“I do believe anything can happen and that the format has helped us this year because the one-leg tie will help us I think.”
Swansea City return to Champions League action for the first time since the 2017-2018 season and will be in search of their first win in Europe since 2011, when they beat FC Progrès Niederkorn from Luxembourg.
Richardson insisted the Swans are relishing the challenge of European competition.
“As a whole squad, we’re really excited about Wednesday’s game,” she said.
“A lot of preparation has gone into this on and off the field, mostly off the field to try and get us training again because of the circumstances at the moment but as a whole squad, the momentum is really high and we just can’t wait to get there.”
“Since Covid has obviously interrupted this year, I think it’s become a much bigger step with stop-start football since the season started but each week, we’ve been training three times and we started having games on a Sunday when the league started but apart from that, every training session has been tough, physical and we’ve been preparing as a squad to build momentum that’s going to go into our game.”
The Swans have maintained a 100% record in the Welsh Premier Women’s League so far this season, having recorded wins over rivals Cardiff City and Port Talbot Town.
Richardson believes her side’s impressive start to the season will stand them in good stead for the European campaign.
“Our preparation towards the Cardiff game was excellent, we had a great pre-season, some really good friendlies with teams in the English leagues which helped us towards the Cardiff game but has also helped us for Wednesday’s game,” she expressed.
“We can see what we have to work on, what we’ve been doing well as a team, so winning that Cardiff game was vital to us to start the season on a high.
Swansea City were crowned champions of the Welsh Premier Women’s League at the end of the 2019-2020 season, having recorded an impressive 31 points from 11 games, dropping points just once all season.
Richardson insisted that a win over Apollon would give the Swans’ league campaign a significant boost.
“It would be a huge achievement and if we went there and did get the win, it would just set us up for the season, and that’s what we’re capable of I think. If we beat a team like Apollon, then we should be alright in the Welsh Prem,” she said.
“There’s always been a rivalry between us and Cardiff Met. Cardiff City have come up the ranks throughout the season, but with the squad we have and the players we’ve got, I do believe we’ll retain the title this year.
“It would be a huge achievement (winning the title). It’s very hard to win back-to-back because you have such expectations from yourself as a player and as a squad and I think doing it back-to-back just shows what we carried forward, we never go down and always looking forward and to improve.”
On the opening day of the season, Swansea City’s derby-day victory over Cardiff City was the first Welsh Premier Women’s League game to be televised, as it was shown live on Sgorio.
Richardson insisted the monumental fixture was a huge step in the right direction for the women’s game.
“It was a huge step. It was such an exciting time. To play on Sgorio was massive as a player. To get recognised as a Welsh Prem was excellent,” she said.
“I do believe the league should have more recognition and that is the way forward I think, through Sgorio, because there are some outstanding players in the Welsh Prem that never get recognised outfield. I think that’s the way forward for the Welsh Prem.
“To play on the telly, even if it’s just once a month, the derby games, the cup games, finals especially, I think it would really boost the women’s game.
“It’s very exciting because to be honest, when I started playing football, you never even heard about what was going on. People never heard much about women’s football.
“But now, when someone mentions your name or someone’s name, people say that they’ve heard of them and seen them so it’s getting around to everyone now, which is much better because everyone understands the women’s game and the more people that understand it, the more support we’ll have.”