Watford Ladies’ big ambitions are beginning to turn heads - and not least new signing Helen Ward, with Wales’ all-time top goalscorer full of belief that the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal could soon have a new rival on their hands.

The talented 31-year-old striker, a Watford fan since birth, returned for a second spell with the Lady Hornets this week, eight years after she left a very different looking Hertfordshire outfit for Arsenal in 2009.

Back then, the club was competing in the now defunct Premier League National Division, then the country’s top flight.

But that is a far cry from the “troubles” which she is all-too aware have dogged the club in recent years, and that she watched from afar while it racked up only three league wins across the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

But the February appointment of head coach Keith Boanas, who enjoyed a raft of success with Charlton Ladies in previous years, has proved an impressive coup for a side with little to smile about and, Ward admits, was the driving force behind her move to Gaywood Park.

“He has done so much in football, and is well-renowned in the game for being a coach,” the Welsh international said. “Had he not been there, it might not have been an option because I know there were troubles in the past few years.

“I was put in touch with Keith early on in the summer, but hadn’t heard much because he didn’t want to interfere with me being pregnant.

“I’d had offers and I wanted to let him know it was the case. He called me after the opening day of the season when I had been at Vicarage Road for the Liverpool game. He said he would love to speak to me on a formal basis.

“I had heard the ambition of the club, it was a no-brainer and coming back to Watford was a big goal.”

Boanas’ ambition is infectious, it seems, and its newest signing is pretty well-placed to judge.

Although the club was playing at the highest level when she left eight years ago, she is confident Watford are on their way back up from the doldrums of the lower reaches of Women’s Super League 2.

It is a sign of their determination to sign the best players they can that Boanas worked so hard to bring Ward back - even though she won’t be fit to play until October.

She said: “I’m due to have my second child in three weeks’ time so I won’t be able to play in the first few games.

“But I have kept going to the gym two or three times a week and if everything goes to plan, I want to be back within three to four weeks, either on the pitch or in games.

“The club has changed a lot. It was 10 years ago I left, and in that time the game has changed in this country with the leagues becoming more professional and the links between the women and men’s team at Watford has never been stronger either.

“The club has been through all sorts between then and now, and it looks like it’s in the strongest position it has been for a long time. We’re looking to move forward and look to become one of the biggest teams in the country and challenging the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal.

“This season might surprise people because most will look from the outside and maybe exp