Nottingham Forest go into their FA Cup fifth-round tie against Everton on Sunday as one of two third-tier teams left in the competition. Charged with helping lead the line for them against the Women’s Super League side is the 18-year-old forward Louanne Worsey, the Cup’s joint top scorer with six goals.
Worsey has thrived on loan from Birmingham, playing with a freedom that has her relishing the pressure of taking on a team who have won only three WSL games this season. “I thrive off pressure, pressure makes diamonds so I’m going to go there with an open mind and hopefully get even more goals and prove even bigger a point,” she says.
Worsey, who began her career in Birmingham’s academy before being brought into the first-team environment at 16, is sitting at Forest’s training ground, speaking with an age-defying confidence that mirrors her performances.
“I’ve definitely had to grow quicker on and off the pitch, adapt my football mentality and commit more towards my football,” she says. “That’s what [being around the first team at Birmingham] taught me. I had a great group of players and a great group of staff when I stepped up to that level. They helped me focus and have tunnel vision on football. That’s all I ever wanted to do and that’s all I want to do now.”
Forest are having an impressive season and an impressive run in the Cup. They are second in the league, four points behind league the leaders, Newcastle, and four ahead of Burnley, although Burnley have two games in hand. Forest are the in-form team though, having beaten both in back-to-back games at the end of January as part of a run of eight wins.
To reach the FA Cup fifth round, they have beaten Sheffield FC, Sporting Khalsa, Boldmere St Michaels and Plymouth Argyle. On Sunday they face a team above them for the first time.
“We know we’re not going to see as much of the ball and we’re going have to play more out of possession,” says Worsey. “We know what Everton are like, we know what they’re going to try to do to break us down, but we’re a very adaptive team and we’re lucky enough to have the ability to be just as good out of possession as we are in possession. We really trust our structure and trust our process going into Sunday. We just need to have quality on the ball and finish our chances.”
With the gaps between levels of the pyramid large, cup upsets in women’s football are rare. However, Everton are struggling in the league while Forest are brimming with confidence.
“We’re really full of confidence at the minute,” Worsey says. “What we’ve got within the team is special. The togetherness and the belief that we’ve got, having been unbeaten in January, knowing that there were going to be hard games, just proves what we’re about and shows that we aren’t a walkover. Wherever we turn up, regardless of the opposition, whether it be a WSL side in the FA Cup or in the league, we’re proving a point and showing that wherever we go we can get a good result and win games.”
Forest’s manager, Carly Davies, has helped Worsey grow as a player and developed this confidence. “She’s a wonderful manager, she’s a wonderful coach,” says Worsey. “I’m playing with freedom. She took me under her wing, and I needed somebody to really get that confident side out of me, which I didn’t really have before coming out to Forest. She’s done a really good job of doing that.
“She’s believed in me and believed enough in what I’m about to play me. So I feel I owe something to her and owe something back to the club. I didn’t have a very good start, getting a red card and then having a match ban. So I felt I had to prove even more of a point, to Carly and to the girls.”
How does Worsey feel about the increased attention? “It’s definitely rewarding,” she says. “I do feel like a small fish in a big pond, me being 18 and so young, among loads of players in this league and other leagues in the FA Cup that I grew up watching. They’re my idols. Me getting a bit of their level of recognition is just a dream come true, but I’m always learning.”