“I just want it to be Sunday now,” Shelley Kerr grins.
The pitch of her voice rises ever so slightly. When she speaks again, a spark of excitement is evident in her tone.
“You want to fast forward to the game because you're doing all the preparation and it's such a fantastic occasion,” she tells Arsenal.com. “I've not been involved before. In Scotland I have with the Scottish cup, which is similar but is on a smaller scale. It's a fantastic occasion and I can't wait.”
Kerr has been in charge of Arsenal Ladies for less than four months but she is already preparing herself to take charge of a major final.
"When your team are given the opportunity to win, it's incredibly enjoyable. I've been on the other side of it too. Football is like that. It can make you laugh and make you cry"
Bristol Academy are the opponents in the FA Women’s Cup. Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium is the venue.
The Ladies have advanced seamlessly to Sunday’s showpiece, producing arguably their three most impressive performances of 2013 in the competition.
They have scored 14 goals in three games en route to the final and have knocked out holders Birmingham City and Matt Beard’s much-improved Liverpool team along the way.
Now they face Mark Sampson’s side, eager to finally heal the scars that were created by last year's semi-final defeat against Chelsea.
“We've performed really well in the cup,” Kerr said. “The girls have spoken quite a bit about last year and not getting to the final. You always want to get there as a player and now that we are there, we need to try and concentrate on playing the way that we can play. If we do that, we'll give ourselves the best chance to be successful.”
Kerr was pleased with aspects of last Sunday’s dress rehearsal between the sides, a Continental Cup group stage game that the Ladies won 4-2. Extra training sessions have been held this week to ensure that the team are totally prepared for what the manager is sure will be a dissimilar challenge to the one they encountered at Meadow Park a week ago.
“The game on Sunday was a little bit different because Bristol had nothing to play for,” Kerr tells Arsenal.com. “They were out of the competition already but we needed a point. It was a challenging game for us.
“It was very worthwhile and we're delighted to have scored four goals. It's a big confidence boost for us in this moment in time, because we've been creating many chances but perhaps not taking as many as we could have.
“The girls have trained really well this week and we'll have another session on Saturday before we leave to go up to Doncaster. Preparations have gone well and everyone is up for it.
“It's an enjoyable occasion. It's different. It's that one where any player wants to play in it. You get really excited going into the game.”
The euphoria that surrounds the cup final is a familiar emotion for Kerr.
“Before I retired, I was a player-coach at Hibernian and had the pleasure of leading the team out when we won it,” she remembers. “That was a really enjoyable occasion. For everyone associated with football, be it as a player, a coach or a supporter, when your team are given the opportunity to win, it's incredibly enjoyable. I've been on the other side of it too. Football is like that. It can make you laugh and make you cry.”
Arsenal’s cup-final record makes impressive reading. They have won 11 of their previous 12 finals and have lifted the trophy on six occasions since 2004.
Rachel Yankey was on target in two of those games and is expected to be fit after returning from injury last weekend. Kelly Smith’s ankle will be monitored until kick-off but Niamh Fahey will not feature.
Whoever does start on Sunday will be encouraged to “enjoy the occasion”.
“Everyone connected with the Club expects to win trophies and that's the expectations that we've generated,” Kerr said. “You see it as a challenge. There's no better feeling as a player or a coach to play in an FA Cup final. It should be an enjoyable occasion and not one where you worry about pressure.”
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.