HOPE POWELL is delighted that one of her former players Eni Aluko is back in football.

Aluko announced on January 15 she would retire from football aged just 32.

The former England forward played under Powell for the Lionesses and won 15 caps during her reign.

On Wednesday Aluko was appointed as the new women’s sporting director at Aston Villa, Albion’s opponents on Sunday, and Powell is delighted for her.

She said: “They have just appointed Eniola. I am really pleased for her.

“It is an interesting appointment. I keep in touch with Eni and she said she wanted to be a sporting director.

“I know the job wasn’t advertised as that before, it was head of women’s football, but credit to her as it is something she wanted to do it and will be interesting to see what follows.”

Powell added: “I had a brief conversation with Eni yesterday. I was hoping to see her on Sunday but she is on holiday.

“Eni will bring a lot. She is a qualified lawyer and I’m pretty sure she will be part of the recruitment process. She is bright and she has a lot of enthusiasm for the game.”

Albion travel to the Midlands to take on Villa in the FA Cup fourth round.

Villa are currently top of the WSL Championship and have only lost one of their last seven, which was a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the Conti Cup.

With Villa being top of the Championship, does it give Powell an early chance to assess them as a potential WSL side next season?

She said: “I am not looking at it for that reason.

“We are looking at it because we have to play them in the FA Cup, but their current form shows that they are a good side and are on course to get promoted.

“The investment they have recently got has meant they have recruited heavily, buying some key players.

“On top of that they have brought in a sporting director, so their ambitions look big, based on the movement that has happened in the last day or two.

“We are just looking at them because they are the next team we are playing.”

Powell added: “For them it is probably more about comparing themselves to a WSL side and seeing what their capabilities are.

“We can’t forget the beauty of the FA Cup and how that pans out.

“It is a one-off, everyone wants to win it, they are a good side, we want to stay in it and so do they.

“I imagine it could be quite an entertaining game.”

Powell knows Villa will pose a serious threat.

She said: “They have got some pace upfront, some pace at the back.

“Also, they try to play out from the back and play football. In the game at Chelsea you would have expected them to panic and rush things but they actually tried to play.

“Credit to their coaching staff as the players are trying to execute a very evident game plan and a style of play which has held them in good stead because they are top of the league, so it is going to be a challenge.”

Albion are ninth in the WSL table, just three points above relegation, so Powell admits her main focus lies elsewhere.

She said: “I am not going to lie, it is not the priority, the league obviously is.

“It is a competition that everybody knows about and is highly regarded in both the women’s and the men’s game.

“It’s such a big competition, we are looking forward to the first one on Sunday.”

Albion have made three signings in the January window with keeper Cecilie Fiskerstrand, striker Rianna Jarrett and winger Maxime Bennink (loan) coming in but Powell is still on the lookout for further additions.

She said: “We are still working up until the very last minute.

“We are looking for options but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Goalkeeper Sophie Harris has joined Lewes on loan for the remainder of the season.