Welcome to Moving the Goalposts, the new (and free) women’s football newsletter from The Guardian. Here is an excerpt from this week’s edition. To receive the full version once a week, simply insert your email below.
You can never prepare for it. This is the day that every athlete knows is coming. In my head, I had been planning my transition away from the pitch for two years, but you can never really imagine what stepping on the grass will be like for the last time.
I approached Sunday’s game against Birmingham like I would any other day, it’s probably the pro athlete in me, trying to keep the same routines and trying not to let the occasion changes anything or adds pressure.
I walked into the floor, into the locker room, to see that teammates and coaches had left cards and little gifts and it really reminded me that it was the last moment and I just wanted to take it a bit, sit there.
It was an incredible day. Passing the guard of honor and seeing players congratulating me and saying thank you for what I have done in women’s football really started to stir up the emotions inside and made me realize how important it is to be visible and try to be a good role model. These labels are attached to us as athletes, but it’s a role that I have really taken on. To feel like people recognize that is an amazing and lovely thing.
All week I had been overwhelmed by waves of emotion. I had approached the week as a normal week, but at the same time the questions about what it was like to retire, what I was looking forward to and what I would miss, came every day. Each time, I would get a little emotional, tearful and sad because my journey has been amazing. I enjoyed every day being in a training environment, surrounded by teammates and meeting new people all the time. Knowing that I’m not going to be in that kind of environment every day is a challenge because that’s what I’ve known for most of my life.
I received messages from people with or against whom I grew up playing, but also from players who are absolute idols for whom I have enormous respect. Steven Gerrard gave me an autographed shirt. It was unreal, honestly. I’m a Liverpool fan so I was absolutely buzzing. He said, “Let’s hug,” and I said, “Yeah, let’s hug, because my hands are really sweaty right now.”
I joked with the girls that I was just going to linger in this hug for a bit. I was just trying to be really present right now. It was really uplifting and it really lifted the spirits of the team to have the Aston Villa male manager come on board. I recently received video messages from Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira and Bobby Firmino and former teammates such as Emma Byrne, Lianne Sanderson and Rachel Yankey, to name a few.
It was extremely humbling to know that I had a positive experience with all of these great people in the game and they felt a connection. It’s been overwhelming, in a good way. I never imagined that my impact would be so important. I never set out to be a person who tries to challenge things, that’s just how it’s been, the way I approach things based on my own values, what I want to see in the game and how I want to influence the game.
It is good that this has been recognized by so many people and that they have felt this impact in a positive way. It really fills my heart in such a warm way. That’s the best way to describe it, knowing that the feeling people have working with me or interacting with me or watching me play is positive.
Despite all this, he has not really sunk yet. In fact, I don’t think he’ll make it home until much later down the road. Right now it’s the end of the season for everyone so it’s more likely to hit me when everyone’s gearing up off season to come back and I’m not lacing up and having to fill a wellness sheet or going on my own off-season training.
One of the best things has been the feeling that people really believe in what I can do off the pitch to get ahead. I hope I can have the same impact and influence behind the scenes as on the grass. I want to be able to continue, in some form or another, to use my voice and the space that I work in to move the game forward in the right way and maintain all of the values that I think all of us have from the amateur days until to the professional game held firm. To try to keep that authenticity and those relationships alive.
There is no competition. Sam Kerr’s stunning second volley in Chelsea’s 4-2 loss to Manchester United to clinch the WSL title was, frankly, ridiculous. For a player to have the confidence to even attempt to spin and loop a volley from outside the box is scary. Have the confidence to do it when the stakes were so high? Creepy. I was there, I saw it and I couldn’t believe what I saw.
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