"It's the start of a new era for Burnley, and they need to get used to prestigious ties like this" - England legend Rachel Brown-Finnis on Women's FA Cup clash with Manchester United

Rachel Brown-Finnis believes Burnley will become accustomed to big occasions like Sunday's Women's FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Manchester United.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 12:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 12:22 pm
Rachel Brown-Finnis of Everton Ladies during the FA Women's Cup Final against Arsenal Ladies at Stadium mk in 2014

The Burnley-born England legend feels the Clarets are on the up, after being integrated into the club, with the aim to reach the FA Women's Championship in four years.

For the second season running, Matt Bee's side have reached the fourth round of the cup, and Brown-Finnis, who played in the final aged 15 in 1996, and won it in 2010, is excited at the prospect of Sunday's landmark occasion: "It's a fantastic tie, an historic tie - they haven't met before, and with where the two clubs are, and the investment in women's football, the two clubs are both on the up.

"It's early into Burnley coming under the club's wing, and similarly with United, they are only three years in there.

Lauren Bracewell, right, celebrates after her three penalty saves on Sunday

"So they are two, in some ways, fledgling teams...Burnley have had a team for a long time, but coming into the club set up adds a new air of credibility.

"It shouldn't necessarily be like that, but it opens women's football up to a new audience of Burnley fans potentially.

"It's the start of a new era for Burnley, and they need to get used to this, prestigious ties like this.

"Beating Sunderland in dramatic style was brilliant, and to get the reward of taking on United must be really exciting."

The 82-cap England international, who played at World Cups and European Championships, and was selected for the first-ever Great Britain women’s football squad at the London Olympics, is a weekly columnist for The Guardian on the WSL, and a pundit on BBC’s Women's Football Show and BT Sport.

So she watches a lot of Manchester United Women, and assessed the challenge they will pose Burnley: "United were top of the WSL at Christmas, but have fallen away a little bit.

"They're in their third year, and are still finding their feet as regards what is required at the top level, from a squad depth point of view.

"They have invested heavily in recruiting players but are just a bit thin on the ground at the moment.

"Tobin Heath is injured, Leah Galton, who is another influential player and has scored a lot of goals and made assists...they are just lacking a bit of firepower at the moment.

"But when you look at young Lauren James, a centre forward, sister of Reece, brilliant quality, they still have players who have WSL experience like Katie Zelem, whose uncle Peter played for Burnley...players with lots of experience, beyond their experience at United, experience in the FA Cup, a lot of things that would obviously tout them as favourites, international caps...

"It shows how far Burnley have come, the women's side have done an amazing job with constricted resources really, and they have the attitude that they want to play for the love of the game, to play at as high a level as possible.

"It's an exciting tie, and the girls can be proud of what they've achieved already and go and enjoy it."

And the United boss Casey Stoney is a familiar figure - the pair were together in the England squad for 13 years, and were both in the Team GB group.

They will be 'reunited' on Tuesday night on TV pundit duty: "I'm in Stoke doing England v Canada with her, so I'll look for the inside scoop!

"We probably played a good 10 years together with England, I know her inside out, and she's doing an amazing job with United."

And from one keeper to another, Brown-Finnis was thrilled at Lauren Bracewell's exploits on Sunday, as the Burnley skipper saved three penalties in the shootout against Sunderland, to earn the tie with United: "That was brilliant from Lauren, saving three penalties - the buzz you get is unreal!"

Brown-Finnis herself saved two spot kicks in a shootout, aged 15, for Liverpool against Croydon in the 1996 final at Millwall's Den, but, unfortunately, Croydon prevailed 3-2.

She would get her hands on the cup in 2010, as Everton beat Arsenal 3-2 with a last-minute winner in extra time from Natasha Dowie at the City Ground, but was on the losing side to the Gunners four years later at Stadium:MK with the Toffees.