Villa Ladies feature: Crackle hails spirit despite stick
Hayley Crackle loves the spirit and camaraderie with Villa Ladies - even if she does get her fair share of stick.
Crackle this week preached about the buzz in the claret and blue squad under the enthused leadership of Ron Mellor and Joe Hunt.
But she has cheekily warned some of her team-mates that she's planning to get her own back on them after weeks of good-natured teasing.
Villa's young and promising squad take it in turns to name and shame players in a range of categories for the official match programme.
Crackle's name has come up in a host of areas - including worst driver and worst dancer.
The reliable right-back is ready to take no prisoners when it's her turn.
She said: "I keep seeing my name when I have a read of the match programme!
"I will be getting my own back on a few of the girls. I have loads of things I can say.
"Jade Richards said I was the worst driver, which I can categorically state that I'm not. She must have said that to wind me up!
"The worst dancer? The whole squad would say me.I can agree with that because I am terrible.
"There's a few girls who should watch out, definitely!
"Joking aside, that sort of thing shows the team spirit we have. If we weren't doing things like that, there wouldn't be any team spirit.
"It's all good fun and shows we're a tight group. There's always good banter. It's great to be around all the girls.
"But Jade Richards is my No.1 target. I am intrigued by what Sherry McCue comes up with this weekend too!"
Despite the off-field humour, Crackle is enjoying life on the pitch in claret and blue at present.
Crackle has established herself as a reliable right-back after working her way back into the team following a stint in the newly-established Development League, brought in by the Women's Super League chiefs.
She continued: "I am in the team now, which is fantastic - and it's where I want to be.
"It's taken a lot of effort, application and dedication from myself.
"I didn't play a great deal in the previous campaign but I am now and it's brilliant to be involved.
"I think I am a classic example of 'if you put the hard work in, you will get your rewards.'
"The Development League, much like the men's U21 equivalent, has certainly helped me this season.
"I was playing five or ten minutes in some games last time out but this term I have been able to play regularly in the Development League.
"It's a tremendous concept for players like me who want to prove themselves and also for injured players making their way back into things, who aren't quite ready physically for the first team. They can work their way back into things. It's been a really good thing."
Crackle has certainly been on a journey back into the senior set-up - but her valuable voyage has also moved all over the pitch too.
She was originally a striker as a young starlet breaking through before moving to the right wing and eventually to full-back.
Crackle has enjoyed the turf tour and now loves her defensive role.
She continued: "The full-back role is definitely the best position for me. I like being an attacking full-back. I like bombing down the sides and joining in further up. I love going forward.
"I would never have imagined that I'd be a right-back when I was younger because I was the one scoring the goals. But the coach had other plans for me and they've really worked out well.
"I was actually put back up front for some games last season and I was so out of my depth! I am happy staying at full-back definitely."
Crackle could well return to the starting line-up for Sunday's visit of Oxford United Women.
She was stretched off in the last game after an accidental collision with team-mate Elisha N'Dow but has now recovered in time for the weekend Continental Cup clash.
She added: "I was back in training - doing fitness work - on Thursday and I'm fine so I'm available for Sunday.
"It will be a tough match. They are a good team.
"Like us, they haven't won a game in the Continental Cup. They will be raring to go.
"It's a big game for us. We want to get some points. We don't want to end up with no points in this competition.
"We had a really tough draw in my opinion with some difficult opposition - the likes of Notts County Ladies and Birmingham City Ladies.
"But now we're determined to put on a good performance and get a good result.
"There's been a lot of progress with us as a group throughout the season, when you look at it as a whole. We're developing all the time.
"It's a young and emerging group - look at Sarah Mayling who is a vital player and she's just 17.
"We all knew it would be a season of transition with such a young squad. We didn't know exactly what to expect either because obviously it's a new league. But there's definitely been big improvements.
"We're an ambitious team who will only get better with time. I think we will really push on.
"I am so excited about the next few seasons. We're only going to get better. We have players away with England U19s and U20s at the moment. That shows the quality.
"We've got a good management team with Joe Hunt and Ron Mellor [pictured above]. They bounce off each other really well.
"I have been coached by Joe for 10 years and he's been excellent for me. Ron has come in to work with us and he's been a good addition. He adds something, definitely.
"He has so much experience. That has really helped. His team talks are very inspirational. We love having him around.
"I've got to mention our support at home too, which has been outstanding. This season we have bigger attendances and we have a lot of new followers, which has been great to see.
"It means the world to us. We're motivated anyway but that just adds another spark to our enthusiasm out there. Let's hope for a big crowd on Sunday."
Make sure you head over to Sutton Town for Sunday's Continental Cup clash with Oxford United Women, kick-off 2pm.
Admission is £3 for adults and £1 for juniors on the door, while the match programme - available around the ground - is £1.
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