“When we reached The Women’s FA Cup Final in 2012, it was a bit of a shock. Not this time – we are ready for success.”
Laura Coombs is one of only three players still in the Chelsea squad that contested that Final against Birmingham City.
On that occasion, the club missed out on a first piece of major silverware, defeated on penalties by their fellow Blues, but the transformation overseen by manager Emma Hayes in the following three years has been remarkable.
Chelsea v Notts County
The SSE Women's FA Cup Final
3pm, Saturday 1 August
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
Tickets priced £15 adults, £5 concessions
They were runners-up in FA WSL 1 and reached two Cup semi-finals last season, and now they are preparing to take on Notts County in the SSE Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Coombs said: “Sometimes I can’t believe how much it has come on in such a short space of time.
“Emma came in as our manager soon after that Final and, having worked with her for a year at Arsenal, I just knew everything was going to change for the better. She’s a very attack-minded coach and she has implemented her style of play.
“Everything has changed at the club to make the set-up more professional.
"We want to repay the support of the fans and everyone within the club by winning [the Cup]. It would be incredible to be a part of the squad that lifts a first trophy for Chelsea Ladies."
A composed presence in the heart of the Blues’ midfield, 24-year-old Coombs has featured in every round of the club’s run to The Final, which included a victory at Arsenal and an emotional triumph against Manchester City, who beat the Blues on the final day of last season’s WSL 1 campaign to deny them the League title.
“It’s been a hard run to The Final, almost as tough as it gets,” she said. “That has been great preparation for Saturday’s game, as was the experience of last season.
"I wouldn’t say there were nerves going into the City game, because we are a confident team – it was definitely excitement more than anything, especially with a trip to Wembley riding on it.
“What happened last season has added more steel to the squad. All of us who played on that final day never want to experience it again.
"It sits in the back of your mind; when you’re in tight games, that could be the difference between winning and losing.”
The Final promises to be an evenly contested one, with the Blues having narrowly defeated their opponents on the opening day of the WSL 1 season.
There is also plenty of familiarity between the sides, with no fewer than five Notts County squad members having played for Chelsea in recent years.
“I think it’s going to be a great game because there are two different styles of play on show,” said Coombs. “It’s going to be a real battle.”