For Rachel Yankey, Sunday’s Champions League semi-final against VfL Wolfsburg offers a chance for redemption.
Despite maintaining their domination of English football over the last decade, Arsenal Ladies have been unable to add to the European trophy they won when beating Swedish side Umea in 2007.
Not that they haven’t come close. While under the guidance of Laura Harvey, the Gunners advanced to the last four of the competition in both 2011 and 2012 before being knocked out by reigning champions Lyon and three-time winners FFC Frankfurt respectively.
I remember beating Umea well. Everyone wrote us off and didn't give us a chance and I think we need that same spirit on Sunday to make sure that we can put this Club through to another finalRachel Yankey
Yankey, who equalled Peter Shilton’s s all-time England appearance record last Sunday, is familiar with both the agony and the ecstasy of European competition, having featured in both of those semi-final defeats as well as starting in both legs of the successful 2007 final.
“It's gutting to lose in a semi-final,” she told Arsenal.com. “That's part of it and proves how the semi-finals can be horrible.
“You always know that there's that little bit there that can knock you out and stop you going to that final day. We need to remember that and make sure that it drives us on to play a tough game.
“I remember beating Umea well. We were so far underdogs it was unbelievable. Everyone wrote us off and didn't give us a chance and I think we need that same spirit on Sunday to make sure that we can put this Club through to another final.
“I think there's a strong belief within the team and the Club in general. You have to make sure that you raise your game because the standard of the Club is that we get to Europe and we play in Champions League games.
“That's something that is always expected of us and I think as a player, it's not really a pressure on you, it's just a standard that you should be meeting. We know that we are good enough to do that.
“We all dream about that 2007 tie and I'm sure the younger players are sick of us older ones talking about it. We need to try and make a new history for the Club and put it back on that stage where we were the best team in Europe.”
We all dream about that 2007 tie and I'm sure the younger players are sick of us older ones talking about itRachel Yankey
While teams often prefer playing at home last in a two-legged tie, Yankey sees beginning the semi-final at Meadow Park as an opportunity for the Ladies to put themselves into a strong position to reach the tournament’s showpiece.
“We really do like playing at home,” she said. “Borehamwood has been our fortress over the years. Teams don't like to come and play us there and we feel comfortable there.
“We have to be positive about that and take advantage of it. The main thing is to try and make sure we don't concede. If we do, we have to score more than they do.”
This week, manager Shelley Kerr spoke about the psychological impact of the Ladies’ 6-4 aggregate win over FFC Turbine Potsdam in the last 16 of the tournament.
Not only did the victory ensure progression to the quarter-finals for the ninth season running, it was also the first time an English team had beaten German counterparts.
Yankey believes the memory of that result can give the squad a mental boost, and, with the experienced duo of Kelly Smith and Ciara Grant injured and suspended respectively, feels the blossoming members of the squad must play a crucial role if Arsenal are to go into next week’s return leg in a strong position to reach the final on May 23.
“Beating Potsdam was massive because before, everyone kept telling us that no English team had ever beaten a German team,” she remembered. “When people keep telling you and giving you negative news, you can start to doubt yourself, especially when you come up against German teams.
“You know it's going to be tough and you know that your chances are going to be few and far between. Any chances you do have, you need to make sure you're clinical with.
“The younger players are coming on and have more and more experience. I don't think that playing in big games will really phase them. They are used to it because many have played in the Olympics and on many occasions for their country.
“It's their time to shine and we need to make sure that as a team, we are all playing well and competing. If we can all do that, hopefully we can get through this semi-final and who knows what else it will bring.”
For supporters wanting to cheer Arsenal Ladies on at Boreham Wood FC on Sunday, tickets can be purchased from the turnstiles, priced at £5 for adults and £1 for under-16s