WSL Interviews Pt 4: Harrop & Nuttall

The big kick off for the FA Women’s Super League is almost here, with 20 teams competing across FA WSL1 and 2 in the new winter format. Key players from every club came together to meet the media at Wembley Stadium in London and we muscled our way in there too. You will probably have read all the really serious pre-season stories, but we figured it might be nice to ask the players about some silly stuff too. Here are our penultimate pair of interviews…

Kerys Harrop, Birmingham City

The longest serving player at Birmingham, 26-year-old Harrop won the FA Women’s Cup with the Blues in 2012 and made her debut in the Champions League that year too. A smart skipper and determined role model, she was also part of the England U-19 European Cup winning side of 2009 and has represented her country at senior level too.

SK: So how’s pre-season going?
KH: Really well, feels like it’s gone on forever with the transition from the Spring Series to the winter league, it was always going to be quite a long pre-season but it’s gone really well. Lot of hard work, lot of running.

SK: What’s been the hardest part so far?
KH: It’s always the short stuff, 2v2 or 5v5 possession, we have to transition from one half to the other and then the more difficult drills and weights in the afternoon. Busy, busy but it’s all good.

SK: Anyone in particular looking good?
KH: Quite a few have stood out. Ellen White is always hard working, a good role model and sets a good example, so I’ll big up Ellen. Also Aoife Mannion, who has come back and is always doing extra after training and working on her technical ability.

SK: What is your squad number and why?
KH: No.6, it’s the number I’ve always had really, even from a younger age when I used to play in centre midfield, I’ve always liked it. My mum and dad got me a personalised car registration for graduating from my Masters and it’s in my car reg.

SK: Bought new shinnys and boots?
KH: Yeah, I’m an Adidas girl and they tend to be all black boots. Shin pads I’ve just kept the same really, I think they’re Sondico actually from when we used to be sponsored by them. It’s not superstition, they’ve just maintained their ability to protect me so I’ve kept them. I wash them after every game in the washing machine.

SK: Do you have an initiation for new players?
KH: Yeah, we have a sing-song so the girls get up and sing for at least 30 seconds. We usually do it on the coach on the first away trip of the season.

SK: It’s going to be a winter league, how will you stay warm?
KH: Luckily we’ve got a lot of kit through Adidas, a massive bench coat so that’ll come in useful even if it’s just in training. They say you’re better to have lots of layers rather than one so I’ll have Under Armour, my training top, a jumper and probably the big bench coat as well! It’ll probably feel more like summer if I train in all of that.

SK: When’s your favourite time to play a match?
KH: I’ve just been used to Sunday at 2pm really, but I think sometimes a Saturday game is nice, it gives you the Sunday off.

SK: Do you have a team huddle before a game?
KH: Yes, at the start of the game, usually I speak, motivating the girls, reminding them of things we’ve focused on in training, things about the opposition we need to remember but then some of the girls have a say as well because I think it’s important it doesn’t all just come from me, that everyone feels comfortable enough to say something.

SK: Who is last out of the changing rooms after a match?
KH: Probably myself and Ellen White. We like to get around the crowd and make sure all the signatures are signed and have photos, because the fans come week-in, week-out to see us and it’s only right we give them something back.

SK: Can you hear the fans when you play and is there a song or chant you listen out for?
KH: The fans have actually made some up in the last couple of seasons. They change each year and come up with something new. It’s nice to be recognised and have something nice sung about yourself.

SK: Who has the cheesiest taste in music?
KH: The girls would probably say me, I like techno dance Euro trash.

SK: Who is the first asleep on the coach?
KH: The international girls, Andrine Hegerberg, Bella Linden, they do like a good sleep, makes the journey go quicker.

SK: Who always sits at the back?
KH: They are the bad girls at the back, Anna [Ann-Katrin Berger], Bella, Marisa [Ewers], Andrine and Aoife might just go in, she thinks she’s international because she’s got a bit of Irish in her.

SK: Who do you tip for the WSL1 title?
KH: It’s going to be tough, the league has got a lot more competitive now. Being captain of Birmingham I’m going to have to say us, I’d like to think we are challenging, we want to get back in for that Champions League position again. Then it’ll just be the usual, the likes of Man City, Chelsea and maybe even Arsenal this year, they’ve signed some good players.


Anneka Nuttall, Watford

Skipper and centre midfielder Anneka Nuttall joined Watford in 2015 from London Bees after spells with Manchester City and Chesham United. A versatile player – she was a striker at her previous clubs – she leads the side at Watford with tenacity and good humour.

SK: So, how’s pre-season going?
AN: Very good. We’ve got great backing from the men’s club at the moment, loads of new players in. We had three weeks off from the Spring Series and then we went into a pre, pre-season, so we’ve been training all the way through and really working hard and gelling as a new team really.

SK: What’s been the hardest part so far?
AN: Every day is hard, that’s the right answer. I must say some of the friendlies we’ve had recently have been a difficult test for us, having played Yeovil, Liverpool and Everton. They’ve been hard days because we’ve had to gel as a team, with still new players coming in, trialists trying to fit in with them, getting them to see how we work; they’ve been difficult.

SK: Anyone in particular looking good?
AN: Everyone! We’ve got Fran Kitching on loan from Chelsea, top keeper and a few youngsters on the brink of coming through into the first team and we have now got a very good development side that is feeding through to the first team.

SK: Bought new shinnys and boots?
AN: No. I’ve got holes in my boots, this wear and tear is from all the hard work I’ve been putting in pre-season! Ha. I’ve been holding out because I want fresh boots for the start of the season. No, obviously with us and the men being sponsored by Adidas, I’ll probably be looking at getting some nice new Adidas boots with some nice new Adidas shin pads just to match the kit.

SK: What is your squad number and why?
AN: No.7. I’ve always been seven at Watford so it would be strange for me or anyone who knows me associated with Watford, to be in any other number. It’s my favourite number.

SK: Do you have an initiation for new players at Watford?
AN: Not really, no. We have a silly thing that we do every now and then at training which is called ‘last player mounted’ and regardless of what you’re doing or where you are, you get on to a player’s back or someone gets on yours and the last two standing have to then do a forfeit like press-ups, donkey kicks.

SK: It’s going to be a winter league, how will you stay warm?
AN: What will I be doing? Wearing lots of Under Armour and probably putting a lot of Vicks on as well. I’m just going to make sure I have a good warm-up, have Under Armour on when needed and keep myself wrapped up until I’m needed on the pitch.

SK: Do you have a team huddle before a game?
AN: Yes before the first and second halves. We will review our previous performance, a few of the positive things from our previous performance will be highlighted to take forward into the game, but it’s all about working hard for each other. Watford, be it the men or ladies, is a massive family and that is very much stated in the huddle; we work for each other, we’re a family and we fight for each other until the end.

SK: Can you hear the fans when you play and is there a song or chant you listen out for?
AN: We did until not so long ago have the 1881 who support the men. They’ve got drums and a few chants, but yeah, we’ve got fans who come down and create a good atmosphere. We’ve a lot of players from Watford’s youth set-up who will come down and support us and you get the regular faces. Our sister club programme too, so you get girls who aren’t part of Watford but are part of other clubs and football and they are uniting with us.

SK: Who is last out of the changing rooms?
AN: Me. I faff about. I get nervous before a game and that hasn’t changed so I start to faff a bit.

SK: And after the game?
AN: Probably people who actually shower. Vicky Neal, she’s kind of the mum of the group, she cleans and tells people if their kit’s the wrong way round in the tubs.

SK: Who is the first asleep on the coach?
AN: Fran Kitching, every time.

SK: Who has the cheesiest taste in music?
AN: We’ve all got similar taste so I’m going to say Keith [Boanas] or Alberto [Kurti] because when they’ve attempted to put music on in the changing rooms it’s been awful; really old school dance. Half the girls don’t know any of that music, only the few of us that are slightly older realise what it is and it’s just cheese.

SK: Who do you tip for the title?
AN: I’m really excited, I have very high hopes, not just hopes, I know that we are going to do very well this season. We’ve got phenomenal back-up from the men, Watford in general are supporting us more than they’ve ever done, Keith has a wealth of experience and our general manager Ed [Henderson] is doing a fantastic job of promoting us and getting us good sponsorships. Everyone is pulling together and it’s really nice to be part of it.

 

Interviews and images by Catherine Etoe

 

The FA Women’s Super League season kicks-off on 22-24 September. For more information on both leagues and to buy tickets, visit: www.FAWSL.com. Follow the games live on BT Sport, BBC Online and The FA’s WSL Facebook page as well as live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live.