Van Egmond hopeful of Hammers' safety ahead of 'big year' for Matildas

Emily van Egmond celebrates a goal for West Ham United Source: Getty Images

Emily van Egmond is confident relegation-threatened West Ham United can avoid the drop from the Women’s Super League and stay up as the season nears its final months in the UK.

The Hammers are currently rock bottom on the table with eight points, with just two wins and two draws from their 14 fixtures.

It is a brutal dogfight at the bottom with just four points separating London rivals Tottenham, who are in eighth spot with 12 points, and van Egmond’s team in twelfth.

The Matildas star joined West Ham in August from the Orlando Pride and has been one of the club’s best during the 2020-21 campaign.

With only seven games left in the season, van Egmond knows the pressure is rising in east London and is up for the battle.

“Obviously when I originally came over it was all to do with the pandemic, not being possible to play in America at the time there,” van Egmond told The World Game.

“So when the situation came up to join West Ham to get some game-time and keep in a competitive environment for the Olympics, it was kind of a no-brainer for me to do that. It has been a hard season for us, but we still have a lot of games to come, which I know the girls are quite confident about.

“And that’s the nature of the game really. We have Birmingham on Wednesday, which is a huge game for us, so we’ll be looking to go into that game to win and take three points and hopefully start climbing the ladder.

“We do have a lot of potential in our squad, we’ve had a bit of bad luck with certain things at times, like injuries, but the girls are still in good spirits and we’re still looking very much to climbing the table.”

West Ham face Birmingham City on March 18 at home in a massive encounter, where victory would see them draw level on the same amount of points as the ninth-placed Blues.

“We know if we get the win it puts us level with Birmingham, so there’s five teams battling relegation and there’s not many points between all those times,” van Egmond said.

“So it will be a close ending to the season, especially for the bottom of the table, to see which teams can remain in the league for the following year. For us, as West Ham, there’s no denying it’s been a difficult season, but hopefully this Birmingham game is a turning point for us as a club.”

Despite the struggles of the Hammers, the Australian is enjoying her time in the elite Women’s Super League where she comes up against Matildas teammates on a weekly basis.

The 27-year-old also has a familiar face alongside her at West Ham in Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold.

“You’re playing against teams such as Chelsea and Manchester City, which are arguably the best teams in the world, if not definitely in the top three or four,” she said.

“So to be able to challenge yourself against the best in the league has been exciting and a good challenge, and I think you can see the direction they want to take the English league as well, which is quite pleasing. It’s been enjoyable, we’ve had so many games we’ve been able to play [despite COVID-19].

“There’s a lot of us [Australians] over here, which is good. Usually when I’m playing against an opposition team, I’m coming up against a familiar face, which is nice to see people that you’ve known for a while or people you’re involved with at international level as well.

“I think it’s also good for the Australian coaches getting the recognition to coach in a top league such as the WSL here in England. It’s awesome. Mackenzie was actually here at West Ham before me, so it was helpful to have her give me some insight into the club.

“She had nothing but good things to say as well. It’s been good to have each other here as well during the pandemic and everything, as we haven’t been able to get home to see our families.”

Van Egmond has played around the world with spells in Denmark, America, Germany and England, as well as in the W-League.

Capped 97 times for Australia, the midfielder is off-contract at West Ham in two months time but has yet to make any firm decisions on her club future.

“I think it’s a bit far away and also where we are with West Ham; the priority for me is to keep the team safe,” she admitted.

“We want West Ham to be the best team it can be and it’s a fantastic club as well. We have a bit of a challenge on our hands but it’s doable. For me it’s just getting out of this relegation battle hopefully and keeping the club in the top league.

“And we have the Olympics just around the corner – that’s where my mindset is at the moment.”

The Tokyo Games will kick off in July with 12 countries participating. The draw has yet to be made, but van Egmond believes the Matildas have a great chance to be successful in Japan and potentially claim a medal.

“We obviously haven’t been together for over a year now, which has been a bit of a blow, but the closer the games get, the more likely we are to having a camp, which is going to be exciting as well,” she said.

“It’s a tournament that has less teams than in a World Cup so there’s chances of getting medals and I know that’s everyone’s aspirations.

"It’s exciting because it’s a major tournament for us and it’s a big year for the Matildas.”