Watford Ladies forward Helen Ward has spoken candidly about the “huge family consideration” that factored in to her decision to extend her association with the Golden Girls as she prepares to captain the side into their first season in the FA Women’s National League South.

The 32-year-old penned a new deal with the club last week to end speculation that she might have been prepared to move on in order to prolong her record-breaking international career with Wales.

But after long and frank discussions with those closest to her, including with national team manager Jayne Ludlow, Ward says that she is excited to lead a young squad into their first season in the third tier following a national restructuring by the FA.

The proximity of the Hornets to her family, coupled with assurances at international level that dropping down a league would not adversely affect her chances of continuing to add to her status as the all-time record scorer for Wales, was all Ward needed before committing to the club she supports for another season.

“Of course, it [my family] is a huge consideration of mine,” she said. “Ten years ago I could sort of do as I pleased and be a bit selfish but of course I’ve got two young kids and my husband as well to think about, and the less time away from home and out of the house the better for me.

“Thankfully Watford’s just on my door step, and it is my club, so it helps with the decision in the end. It was definitely a major factor in my decision to stay with the club.”

Watford were condemned by some of the ladies own players and staff after taking the surprising decision last November not to apply for the Golden Girls’ admission to the now fully-professional Women’s Super League.

Compounding the uncertainty and the disappointment of the announcement of their switch from the second tier to a regional third division was the manner in which the Golden Girls endured a difficult season with just one victory in 18 games.

And Ward concedes that while she did initially have doubts about whether to seek opportunities higher up the English game, staying at Watford represents the best move for her personally.

“With the club dropping into the National Division it was kind of a case of do I stay and stick with it,” she said.

“Obviously everyone wants to play at the highest level they can. There were one or two clubs who were interested and I did have an offer on the table that I thought about long and hard. The biggest thing for me was, as I said before, my family situation, and the fact that it was Watford that wanted to keep hold of me.

“I did have other options and there were long discussions with my other half, my family, and also my international manager because I needed to know that I would still be in contention. The fact that I have stayed suggests that those things are all sorted out and I think Watford’s the best place for me from a personal point of view.”

Adding to a list of achievements that includes FA Cup final appearances and stints in the top flight of the women’s game remains a priority however, being indicative of the drive Ward retains to continue to make an impact for club and country.

Nowhere was this epitomised more than by her return to the Wales fold last autumn just six weeks after giving birth to her second child, something which she says proved her commitment.

“I’ve known Jayne Ludlow, the manager, for a long time now – both as a player and obviously now as my manager,” Ward said. “She trusts me to do what I need to do to make sure I’m in the best shape, and I think I proved that last season coming back from having Charlie in September.

“When I met up with the international squad obviously she knew that I had a lot of work to do. And in June the two qualifiers sort of proved to her and myself as well as the girls that I’ve worked hard and I’m able to do that, despite at the time Watford having a tough time on the pitch.”

The upcoming season, by contrast, could very well be one to remember. Wales stand on the cusp of potential qualification for the 2019 FIFA World Cup – the final qualifying match between Wales and England in August will decide who tops the group – while Watford are targeting top spot in their new division. Whatever happens you can be sure that Ward figures to be play pivotal roles for both.

“I do still have massive ambitions with Wales and of course I want to be a part of anything that goes on over the next few years,” said Ward, who has won in excess of 70 caps.

“It was a big, big part of the decision but Jayne knows me well, and she knows the best player I can be is when I’m happy. If I’m at Watford and I’m getting my time with my family, I’m going to be a lot happier and a lot more motivated to keep myself fit and to keep myself in good condition and good form.”

She did, however, refuse to be drawn on whether her club lacked ambition by refusing to join the professional ranks, instead focusing on the fantastic opportunity they have been afforded to blood younger players and rebuild for the future following a difficult couple of years.

“Only the top decision makers really know the reasons but I think when you look now at clubs like Sheffield and Doncaster who have had to pull out of the league, it kind of suggests that maybe it is not the be all and end all right now,” said Ward when discussing the FA’s restructuring.

“Perhaps Watford were right to have their questions and their concerns over the new set-up that the FA have put in place, especially in terms of the Championship, and maybe the club were a bit more forward thinking than we thought.

“Coming into the third tier it could be what we need to start again to build with a young squad. So it’s one of those where of course you want to be playing in a higher league but perhaps it is for the best, and, in the long term, it could serve the club well and turn out to be the right decision.”

There is also no reason according to Ward why Watford cannot be amongst the sides challenging at the top end of the table under the guidance of manager Armand Kavaja.

She said: “We’re going into it with every intention of trying to compete for that top spot. Don’t get me wrong, we know it’s not going to be as simple as just turning up and winning games, we’re going to have to really work hard.

“At training I was saying to the girls that if nothing else we need to be one of the fittest teams in the league because if we can do that then we’re going to be able to outlast teams and be able to finish games strong, and that could be the difference between winning a game and not winning.

“We’ve definitely got our eyes set on winning the league but there is a lot to do between now and the start of the season.”