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Gunning UP FOR THE CUP: boss Laura Harvey with from the FA holding Factor star Paije will perform at the for Cup glory; WHY ARSENAL LADIES BOSS HAS THE 'HOME ADVANTAGE' IN FINAL.

Byline: Martin Bagot

UP FOR THE CUP: Arsenal Ladies boss Laura Harvey with Gary Akers from the FA holding the Cup and X Factor star Paije Richardson who will perform at the game (inset) FOOTBALL manager Laura Harvey is dreaming of lifting the FA Cup at her "home" stadium - the Ricoh.

For the 31-year-old, who is the Arsenal Ladies' supremo, was brought up in Bulkington and has a Sky Blue pedigree.

On Saturday week she will proudly lead out her team to play Bristol Academy Ladies for one of the biggest prizes in the sport.

If the Gunners are triumphant, it'll be the closest Coventry link to the Cup since Nuneaton-born Sky Blues' player Trevor Peake lifted the men's trophy in '87!

Laura, who went to George Eliot School in Nuneaton, is a former Coventry City Ladies' player.

She was a was a regular supporter at Highfield Road and her dad was on the staff at the Sky Blues' youth academy.

She said: "My dad was a coach and my brother's gone on to coach football in the US, so I've always been interested in football my whole life.

"Growing up in the area, Coventry City was my local club. I only really left because I moved away to university.

"My dad used to take us to Highfield Road every week when we were riding high in the Premier League. I saw a lot of memorable games."

Laura grew up with her parents and younger brother in Bulkington and played for Coventry City Ladies from the age of 14 before leaving to study sport at Wolverhampton University at 19.

In the ladies' game Arsenal are the dominant force, having won the FA Cup 10 times before Laura took charge last February.

But she refused to touch the famous FA trophy yesterday - hoping instead to lift it as a Cup winner.

She said: "I just feel if you've touched it you feel like you've already won it - and we haven't done that yet."

Since her playing career was ended by a cruciate ligament injury playing for Birmingham City aged just 22, her rise in the women's game has been meteoric.

She became assistant coach at Birmingham City Ladies in 2002 before becoming first team manager in 2007. Eighteen months later she was asked to join the coaching staff at Arsenal.

Her Arsenal side currently sit in second place in the league having won four of their opening five games. The new semi-professional league runs until the end of August.

"It's been enjoyable, but challenging," she said. "Obviously the expectation around the club is high but if you want to be successful in your career you have got to pitch yourself at the highest level.

"And managing Arsenal Ladies - it doesn't get much better than that."

Laura's parents still live in Bulkington and she often returns to her home town to visit.

Arsenal Ladies were left heartbroken after last year's FA Cup final - when Laura was on the backroom staff - conceding a last-minute winner to Everton.

"If we had won in the final last year it might have been different, but until we win it I don't want to touch the trophy," she added "We've got a good chance. I think we'll be the favourites on the day, purely because of our reputation. But that brings its own expectation.

"We know if we play as good as we can we're a tough test for anyone."

JOIN CROWDS FOR BIG KICK-OFF WOMEN'S football has replaced netball as the most popular female sport in England.

When The FA took over the running of the game in 1993, there were just 11,200 registered players.

Today that figure stands well over 100,000. Yet despite this rise, it still lags behind countries such as the United States where there are 7.8 million players.

Bosses at the Ricoh are hoping the 32,609-capacity stadium can host the highest ever attendance for a domestic women's game in England, eclipsing the previous record of 29,092.

Over 17,000 watched last year's final at Nottingham Forest's City Ground as Everton Ladies beat Arsenal Ladies 3-2 after extratime.

Chief executive Daniel Gidney said: "We would like to break the record and I would urge everyone in Coventry and Warwickshire to come out, bring the family and have a great time."

The final, on May 21 will cost just pounds 5 for adults and pounds 2.50 for children.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 11, 2011
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