Wales Footballer Helen Ward On Retirement

Helen Ward’s impact on Welsh football cannot be overstated. Ward is not only the most capped outfield player in Welsh women’s football history, but also the leading goal-scorer for the national team.  

CARDIFF, WALES – SATURDAY, APRIL 09, 2022: Wales’ Helen Ward during a presentation for Helen Ward 100th Cap at The Vale Resort. (Pic by Kunjan Malde/FAW)

In 2022, she reached the remarkable milestone of 100 caps, a testament to her longevity and consistency at the top level of the game. 

How did you come to the decision to retire?  

I think it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a little while now. This season, it has been in the back of my mind that it was potentially going to be my last.  

I obviously hoped that it would have ended at a World Cup in the summer, but it didn’t quite go to plan. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do another campaign with Wales, but that wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly.  

Once that Switzerland game was over, I think everybody could see from my reaction. I knew that was my last chance. I then had a few conversations with Gemma Grainger over the winter.  

She picked me in February to have one last camp and say goodbye to everyone. And then at the end of the season, I’ll be hanging my boots up all together.  

What impact has football had on your family?  

The biggest impact has been on the kids; when I’ve been playing football, going away for 10 days at a time, six, seven times a year. It wasn’t a decision I made on my own.  

Everyone around me has been very supportive. They’ve never told me that I should retire or think about giving up, it has always been on my terms, but they’d support me with whatever decision I make.  

Are you looking forward to retirement? 

Definitely! I think it’s exciting. Even now, if I get the odd evening off, I think how nice it is.  

But I am hoping to stay in the game in some ways so that’ll take up a little bit of time, but it’d be nice to put a little bit more emphasis on the kids!  

I’m also looking forward to watching football as a fan. It’ll be a little bit of a change, but it’s something I’m excited about.  

What did you make of the reaction to your announcement?  

It was a bit unexpected to be honest, it’s been quite overwhelming at times and really heart-warming. When I posted the statements a couple of weeks ago, within 10 seconds, I think I already had a notification on my phone and it was a bit crazy for another 24 to 48 hours after that.  

It’s nice to see how many people who have played a part in my career have had such lovely things to say about me.  

Are there any memories that stick out? 

My 50th Cap against Belarus was quite special. It was our first time playing at the Cardiff City stadium; we won one nil and I scored the winner late on.  

Another memory that sticks out is against Kazakhstan when I came on at halftime and scored a hat trick. The hat trick against Azerbaijan in 2015 was another special moment.  

I think also coming back after having my two children is something that I’m very proud of. Having had kids was something that not many people had done up to that point.  

More recently, I think the 15,000 crowd we had in Cardiff for the playoff game against Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the highlights. It didn’t end how we wanted it to a few days later in Switzerland, but that moment will live with us for a long time because it was a really special night.  

Receiving my 100th cap with my family and my children at the Cardiff City stadium was so special. I never imagined that I would keep playing having had children, but it’s one of the best things that I’ve done. I think they’ll have memories that will hopefully last them a lifetime. They’ve got some wicked people to look up to!  

What has it been like to have been a part of the culture of change in women’s football? 

It’s been some journey. If you look at where women’s football was when I made my debut when I was 15, to see where it has come now, in my 22nd season, it is like night and day. So much has changed in that short space of time that it’s almost a different game.  

It’s a journey that I’m extremely proud of. I think players of my generation should also be proud of where the game is now, compared to back then. To have played a part of that growth and that change with the same sort of group of people has been amazing.  

What really comes next for you?  

I did a sports writing and broadcasting degree almost six years ago. I finished it just before I had Charlie, and I’ve been working with Watford alongside playing as well, so I’ve got a few things that I could put my mind to once I’m done.  

I also have an interest in youth development. Not so much the coaching side but working with players on a wellness and pestle role, because I think there’s so many pressures involved in football now, you know, especially between the ages of 16 and 18.  

It’s a key time in their development, not just in football but in life. There’s so much going on in young girls’ worlds now. I want to provide a little bit of a support in that area, perhaps in an academy setting.  

I just want to enjoy as much as I can, watching games as a fan and taking the kids along!