Glentoran Women star Lauren Wade insists the squad is treating their upcoming Danske Bank Women’s Premiership clash against Cliftonville Ladies as “just another league game”.
The two sides go into the clash tied on points at the top of the standings, with the Glens leading the way courtesy of their superior head-to-head record.
The pressure is on the Reds to win in East Belfast as any other result would see Glentoran lead the way going into the final day of the campaign with a home victory sealing the title.
Wade explained ahead of Wednesday night’s match: “From our point of view, this is just another league game.
“The build-up will be huge because it is going to be a really exciting game between two excellent teams, but that mindset is a distraction for players.
“This is the game that every football fan will want to watch because of what is at stake and where we are at this point in the season - but the mood in our camp is the same as it has been all season.
“We know our performance has to be good and we have to turn up - we have been punished in games earlier this season and we know that can happen again.”
The 27-year-old returned to the Glens ahead of this campaign after six years away and the ‘league and cup’ double is now within their grasp as the season nears its conclusion.
Wade’s return to Northern Ireland was always going to prompt plenty of interest from across the league, but from her point of view there was only ever one choice.
“There has always been an expectation and mentality at Glentoran to be successful,” Wade continued.
“The club has been built on that mindset and developing players - that is how it was in my first spell and you can see that again now.
“When I came home from Scotland there was never any doubt in my mind where I should go; firstly because of how they have treated me but also as they will make me improve my game.
“It feels like a family atmosphere and that is important for a player too, it felt like I never had been away from the club.”
Yet Wade had been away not just from the Glens but Northern Ireland entirely; her playing career has encompassed spells in the US, Sweden, Iceland and Scotland.
Her latest stint was at Glasgow City, where she netted a stunning goal in last season’s Champions League quarter-final loss to Wolfsburg.
Wade reflected upon the change in standards across the nation: “The league has improved so much in every aspect - the quality on the pitch, the quality of the coaching but also the media side of how much exposure we have had.
“The success of the international team goes hand in hand with the league because we make-up the majority of Northern Ireland’s squad.
“Us qualifying for a major finals (next summer’s European Championships) really acted as a springboard for everyone to see all the girls playing on that stage and how strong the product has become.
“There are always ways and means to continue improving but with the number of girls coming through academies across the country it shows that the game and the clubs are in good hands.
“The training we get from Northern Ireland with the intensity and level of coaching allows us to improve and integrate that into the club game.”
Northern Ireland are now focused on their World Cup qualifying campaign which has begun perfectly with two four-goal home victories over Luxembourg and Latvia respectively.
Wade featured in both and netted in the first game, before impressing once more in front of a 4,000-strong crowd at Windsor Park on Tuesday.
She added: “A lot of the attendance for the Northern Ireland games were girls who I recognised from being in the Shooting Stars programmes and IFA camps.
“When you are involved in those schemes it is important because it feels like you are giving back to the game - it wasn’t so long ago I was that age and so many girls are now aspiring to do what I do for club and country.
“There are so many boys and men who now have an active interest in women’s football across Northern Ireland - it’s only going to keep getting better.”
Glentoran host Cliftonville at The BetMcLean Oval on Wednesday night, with a 7.45pm kick-off.