For captain Carla Ward and her Sheffield team-mates, this Sunday’s FA Women’s Premier League Play-Off Final is more than just game – it’s the most important day in their careers.
Sheffield have become used to winning over the past decade. Indeed, they have taken on all-comers in the WPL Northern Division in the last three seasons and won the title on each occasion.
But this time round the prize for being crowned champions is a showdown with Southern Division counterparts Portsmouth for a place in The FA Women’s Super League.
Portsmouth v Sheffield FC
FA Women's Premier League
Sunday 24 May
DCS Stadium, Stratford Town FC
And 32-year-old Ward admits she is already buzzing at the prospect of winning promotion.
She said: “It’s all about this Sunday. It’s the biggest game of my life, and it’s not going to be easy for whoever loses the game.
“Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps, for every individual at Sheffield it is going to be the biggest game of their career.”
A victory this weekend would cap a remarkable rise for Sheffield. Current manager Helen Mitchell first joined the club as a player in 2001 when under their previous guise as Norton Ladies.
Back then they were playing at the bottom level of the women’s football pyramid – Division 1 East of the Yorkshire & Humberside Regional Women's Football League.
But the affiliation with Sheffield FC in 2003 was the beginning of a glorious era which really took off when Mitchell guided the club to the North East Regional WFL Division 1 South title in 2008.
They went onto win the NERWFL Premier Division in 2010 and then the Northern Combination WFL in 2011 to reach The FA Women’s Premier League for the 2011-12 season.
Despite finishing runners-up to Manchester City in their debut campaign, Sheffield have since been unstoppable and their dominance culminated in their third successive WPL Northern Division title last week.
“For the club it has been an amazing journey. Not so long ago they were playing at the bottom of the pyramid,” added Ward.
“Helen Mitchell has been with the club since those days and brought them to the brink of the WSL which is an amazing achievement in itself.
“This season has been the hardest season of the last three, teams have really strengthened and it’s been a lot tougher than we thought.
“It’s been a team effort for us, we don’t have any big-name players, but we have the right blend of youth and experience.”
Sheffield will be without centre back Sheldon Ashton and midfielder Becky Lee for the clash at Stratford Town’s DCS Stadium on Sunday.
But Ward says there is no reason to fear Portsmouth, having already beaten them 2-0 in the Premier League Cup semi-final earlier this season.
“It’s been a tough old season with the amount of injuries we’ve had, but we’ve got pretty much everyone back over the past few weeks and we’ve hit some form at just the right time,” continued Ward.
“Portsmouth are a very tight-knit group and come Sunday they will be a very hard team to beat."