The FA Women’s Super League is slowly growing by the week thanks to some positive publicity during the Olympic games and its clever utilisation of social media.
However, before the WSL was formed, the top tier of English football was the FA Women’s Premier League National Division.
Unlike the WSL, the league runs during the traditional English season from August to May, and kicked-off last week with a full set of fixtures.
One of those clubs, Barnet, didn’t get off to the best of starts, going down 3-0 at home to newly promoted Manchester City. I caught up with Barnet’s number one, Cherie Rowlands, during pre-season, and she told me about what its like to be a Premier League keeper and how she balances a full-time job with her footballing career, as well as a few other bits.
KT: So, you’re Barnet’s number one, but you didn’t start out as a keeper did you?
CR: No, I used to play on pitch but I joined a new club and being a one of the new girls, I was kind of forced to go in goal. But I found I was quite good at it and I kepi my place.
KT: Clearly it was a good move. You’ve been at Barnet five years, would you say you’ve enjoyed your time there and are settled.
CR: Yeah I’m settled, but I think like every player you think about whether you’re doing the right thing. There have been times when you feel like jacking it in, but to be honest, the girls are a great bunch and we play for each other.
KT: Who do you model your game on?
CR: I always loved Pauline Cope (Millwall, Arsenal, Croydon and Charlton). She was someone I really worshipped and I actually got to play against her once, which was amazing.
KT: How important is the support you receive outside of the club?
CR: Yeah it’s really important. My dad loves the fact I play football and my friends think it’s amazing. Some of them are amazed that I know players that play for clubs like Arsenal and take an interest in my career, and that’s a big help.
KT: Going off track slightly, women footballers, and women goalkeepers in particular, can quite often get some stick. Why do you think goalkeepers in the women’s game are under the spotlight?
CR: I don’t know really. Some men and women think its because we don’t like to get hit with the ball, but that’s simply not true. We don’t have the strength that the men do and you do feel like people are watching you when you take to the pitch, but I’ve learnt to deal with that as the years have gone on.
KT: Have you ever gone in at half time and not wanted to go out for the second half?
CR: Oh yeah definitely. There was a game against Colchester a few years ago and I let a goal in just before half time that looked like it was going wide. As I went to pick up the ball it came off my elbow and went in. I wanted to leave the pitch there and then and not come back, but we went onto win the game so the mistake wasn’t too damaging in the end.
KT: Now, unlike your male counterparts, you have the difficulty of trying to fit in your training, match days, travel and full-time job. How do you manage it?
CR: Luckily I can fit my shifts around training and match days, but it isn’t easy. I might sometimes go straight from work to training without having eaten anything, which isn’t ideal. When you do 40 hours a week it is tiring, especially adding training onto that. Some days I leave my house at 7.30am and don’t get home until 11.30pm.
KT: Do you have time for any other interests due to your busy schedule?
CR: Not really. I used to play netball, but once the season starts, I don’t have a lot of time to do anything else. I’m not a drinker so going out on a Friday night isn’t really my thing. I’ll join the girls later on for a couple of hours and be the designated driver, but I’m not one for staying out all hours.
KT: Can you ever imagine having a male player’s lifestyle?
CR: I’d be on top of the world. I’d be able to do what I wanted and it would obviously mean I wouldn’t have to work, meaning I could train every day and improve my skills.
KT: So looking at Barnet, what goals have you set yourself this season?
CR: Everybody is on the same wavelength and we want to go out there and achieve as much as possible, including winning the league.
KT: How do you catch the likes of Sunderland and Leeds who were so far ahead of the pack last season?
CR: Personally, I think we need to add a few faces to the squad as we have a few weaknesses, but other players agree with me on what we need to do to be able to compete at the top. A few new signings would definitely improve our chances of catching those teams at the top.
KT: You’ve made almost 150 appearances for the club, which is quite high on the all time list. How proud does that make you?
CR: Very proud considering everything else that goes on in my life with work etc. I don’t see myself anywhere other than Barnet at the moment because the girls we have are a great bunch and we’re definitely improving.
KT: Do you have ambitions to play in the Super League?
CR: I think any player wants to play at the highest level and the Super League happens to be the highest level in our game at the moment. I had a training session with Emma Byrne (Arsenal) last year and she was impressed with aspects of my game, which was really pleasing for me. However, I’m a Barnet player and while I’m playing for them I want to give 100 per cent every game and not worry about things that I cant control.
If you want to check out Cherie’s skills for yourself, Barnet play their home games at Underhill, also home of the men’s side. You can find out more about the club at http://www.barnetladies.co.uk