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Hayley Ladd: Man Utd's Welsh midfielder pushing for a ticket to Tokyo with Team GB

01:30 GMT+3 18/01/2020
Hayley Ladd Manchester United Women 2019
Phil Neville's squad is expected to be primarily English, but Ladd is one of many other British talents with a strong case to be included

Some of the names that will be in Phil Neville’s 18-player Team GB squad for this summer’s Olympics are pretty easy to predict.

Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Ellen White are among the star English names expected to go to Tokyo, but what about the other three nations that Neville can pick from?

The plane is expected to be filled mostly with England players, but there are a whole host of talents from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland pushing for a place.

Manchester United’s Hayley Ladd is one of those players.

The Wales international has been one of the most consistent performers in the Women’s Super League this season, operating brilliantly in the heart of the Red Devils midfield and more than playing her part in their tremendous start to life as a top-flight professional club.

The 26-year-old has been a regular in the WSL for many years now, but she’s really started to catch the eye since joining United in the summer.

“I have loved it. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone and it’s a place where I can learn and feel comfortable enough to be myself,” she said.

“I can’t wish for more really from the players and the staff.”

It’s been under Neville’s former assistant, Casey Stoney, that the 26-year-old has thrived and Ladd couldn't speak much higher of the former Arsenal defender.

“She gives so much time and respect to each of the players,” she said.

“She really makes you feel like you’re treated so well which is a real privilege. She trusts us as players, wants us to get on the ball and gives us that space to make errors.

“I think straight away when someone has been a former player you have that immediate respect.

“I think with that insight, she knows exactly what we’re thinking and feeling after every training session and game.

“I think that means she’s really in touch with us lot and you really feel like you get that attention to detail. She looks after the details very well.

“We probably don’t see that a lot as players, but after certain wins when she’s changed tactics slightly, I’ve been kind of blown away really at that change that she’s done. No matter however small, it’s made a difference and it’s meant that we’ve won the game.

“I’m really enjoying my time working under her.

“I wouldn’t say [she’s a] perfectionist, but she will look at every little way in which we can win that game. I think if someone is that thorough, I think for us we’re just really lucky to have her.”

Under Stoney, Ladd has improved her game to go from a reliable WSL player to someone whose name is firmly in the frame for a place in that Team GB squad, too.

The midfielder, who can also play as a centre-back, puts that down to how much she is pushed under her new coach.

“I think she has high demands of everyone,” Ladd explains.

“While you feel – I don’t want to say comfortable – you feel well-respected, she’s going to push you and she’s going to make sure that you’re the best that you can possibly be.

“You never rest on your laurels. She’s always pushing you, whether it’s tactically, technically… We meet quite a lot as individuals with the staff and they’re always outlining ways in which we can give more to the team and be better individually.”

It’s a credit not only to Ladd herself but also Man Utd and the project they are building that their No.12 is in contention for a ticket to Tokyo.

Capped more than 50 times for Wales, her experience at international level would be a welcome addition to a squad preparing to head to the biggest sporting event in the world.

On the pitch, her versatility would be a huge boost for a squad much smaller than Neville is used to working with, too.

Ladd plays primarily as a midfielder for her club, mixing hard-working grit with an impressive range of passing to create a dynamic that Neville arguably doesn’t have in an England player.

But for her country, the former Bristol City captain has played regularly as a centre-back too, both in a back three and a back four.

“Yeah a little bit – I think more [as a] formality at this point,” she says modestly when asked if she has been in contact with the Team GB boss.

“It’s nice that the Welsh girls have been considered and have been treated as equals and stuff. It’s positive meetings so far.

“Every game we approach [with Man Utd], I just try to give my all for the team.

“Through that, if I get my name put forward for whatever and I’m doing well for Wales, then I am happy.”