How Spurs have prepared for Women's FA Cup final

Tottenham celebrate after beating Leicester City

Tottenham are preparing for something they have never done before when they take on Manchester United in the Women's FA Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Just five years on from winning promotion to the Women's Super League, Spurs are chasing history as they seek a first women's major trophy.

The club have come a long way in a short space of time but, under manager Robert Vilahamn, they finally feel they can compete with the best.

So what have Spurs done to prepare for the biggest game in their history?

The road to Wembley on the Spurs bus

Tottenham's journey in the Women's FA Cup began in the fourth round, when they came from two goals down to beat second-tier Sheffield United.

Two days later, assistant manager Vicky Jepson put up an image of a bus and a route to Wembley on a screen in a team meeting.

"We were on the Spurs bus and [the picture showed] the teams that we were playing. We just needed to get to the next stop," said defender Ash Neville.

"Every time we came in after playing one of the FA Cup games, the bus was moving along the journey and it was great seeing it.

"When we got to the semi-final, we were just one stop away and I think the team had that belief."

The image of the bus moving forward has helped turn Tottenham's dreams into reality.

Goalkeeper Becky Spencer said the final felt "a long way away" at the start but they have been filled with belief by seeing where they have come from.

"A few players have been at Tottenham for a long time and we just couldn't get on that bus," added Spencer.

"When we finally got to the end [of the journey] it just felt like relief. We can say 'look at the progress we've made'."

Special visits, penalties and VAR practise

Becky Spencer makes a save during the Women's FA Cup quarter-final win over Manchester City
Tottenham beat Manchester City in a penalty shootout in the Women's FA Cup quarter-finals [Getty Images]

With the final around the corner, Tottenham's training sessions have looked slightly different this week.

They were visited by the men's team's goalkeepers on Thursday and Guglielmo Vicario was among those who passed on words of encouragement.

Many players will also be experiencing use of a video assistant referee (VAR) for the first time at Wembley, so they were given a behind-the-scenes look at how it works.

"I’ve never experienced it as a coach," said manager Vilahamn.

"Right now, I need to adapt to the way we use it on Sunday. I don’t scream too much when we score goals anyway but I will need to deal with it."

And with another potential penalty shootout on the cards, Vilahamn says the squad have been practising.

"We know who will want to shoot, who might do it and how we want to shoot - so we have prepared as much as we can," he added.

"You never know when you come to those situations but we have tried to prepare. We have done good this year in shootouts so that’s a big thing to bring to the final."

Training the mind with yoga

With so much at stake, the club's psychologist has been busy preparing them to play in front of a sold-out Wembley crowd.

"It's really important. It allows us to train our minds," said striker Martha Thomas.

"In the same way we train to get stronger with our muscles, we’re just getting stronger in our minds."

One technique used by the players has been yoga.

Vilahamn says it has been key in their ability to score late goals this season, like they did in their 3-2 win over Sheffield United and 2-1 win over Leicester City.

"You can see the strength in the character of the players but it’s also part of the environment we are trying to create.

"One of the four key words in our environment is to be 'present'. It’s about handling setbacks. It’s why we do yoga, so we can handle these moments."

While not all players enjoy yoga, Vilahamn says it has made him a better coach and "a good leader".

"I’m the first one to participate and I'm loving it the most," he added.

"When I was introduced to it a few years ago it helped me to stay calm. I was very aggressive before and did substitutions when I got feelings.

"I think you should never take too many decisions on feelings, you should do it by being calm and using your brain. It helped me a lot to make the right choices."

A trip to Wembley... before the final

Wembley Stadium during the 2022-23 final
Chelsea beat Manchester United in front of a world-record domestic crowd at Wembley Stadium last year [Getty Images]

Among those who have played at Wembley before is captain Bethany England, a two-time FA Cup winner with former club Chelsea.

She led her team-mates on a tour of the stadium last week, so those who had not been before could familiarise themselves.

"We just had a little look around to see what the changing rooms were like and what the pitch was like," said Neville.

"It is nicer for [some players] not to be shocked or taken aback by how big the stadium is - because it is huge when you go out there. It could be overwhelming."

You can watch Manchester United v Tottenham in the Women's FA Cup final live on BBC One from 13:50 BST on Sunday.