Arsenal added attacking flair, defensive nous and top notch experience to their roster when they captured the signature of full-back Steph Catley this summer writes Catherine Etoe. The 26-year-old joined off the back of a W-League championship winning season as skipper of Melbourne City and boasts a CV bursting with NWSL experience from spells with Portland Thorns, Orlando Pride and OL Reign.
Throw in the fact that she is Australia vice-captain with experience of playing in the World Cup and Olympics, and it is clear that Joe Montemurro has signed a very special player. A calf injury has so far denied the left-footer a chance to get into her FA Women’s Super League groove. But, excitingly, Arsenal’s injury update suggests that the wait to see Australia’s PFA Women’s Player of the Year back on the pitch is almost at an end.
So what does the Matilda herself think about the WSL and Arsenal? Here’s what Catley had to say to the media just before the start of the season – and what she told She Kicks when we asked her some very random questions about life on other planets, puddles and more…
On the Australia connection attracting her to Arsenal:
I think that was a big pull. Obviously it’s nice to have someone you trust at a club you go into because they’ll give you an honest opinion on what you’re going into. It’s always hard going into a club a little bit blind, but having Caitlin [Foord] here and obviously Joe, their opinions are what I valued very highly and they were telling me good things. And I’ve obviously worked with Joe before, so I know the way he likes to play football and I know that that philosophy works well with the way I like to play football. And obviously Arsenal is a huge club with so much history. It was an easy decision in the end just because it felt right in my gut.
On Arsenal’s style of play being a factor in her move:
I’ve watched a fair few games over the years and just really love the way that they go about it. I love the way they keep the ball and attack, but are really organised defensively and they just sort of seemed like the whole package. They have big players and a philosophy in the team where everyone’s working as hard as the other person. So just from afar, you don’t exactly know before you get here, but from afar, it’s been a team that I’ve always sort of wanted to play for. I played alongside Kim Little [at Melbourne] and honestly, who wouldn’t want to play with Kim Little, she’s just an absolute beast and such a good person. And I’ve played with Jen Beattie, and there’s superstars in this team, so it was just something that when I looked at the prospect of coming here was just really exciting.
On how Joe Montemurro’s style suits her game:
I like to get forward a lot, I like to be on the ball, combining, and whether that means it’s inside or outside it doesn’t really bother me. I think he just puts a lot of confidence in his players to do what they’re good at and I feel like any player really thrives under that kind of mentality. Playing in his teams before, I’ve watched myself become a much better player so to do that, over here, surrounded by so many other incredible footballers, I’m just hoping that I can take my game to another level.
On the importance of feeling at home:
It can be really difficult coming to a new place. I’ve been back and forth from America for the last six, seven years, so that was a little bit of a comfort zone for me. One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Europe now is I feel like I’m at a point in my career where I want to challenge myself in a new environment, a new type of football and a new place. So I’ve definitely done that. But in saying that, I’ve got that little bit of comfort in knowing a few people. And obviously my partner [Sutton United goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis] has come and joined me now. I’ve got a lot of family here in the UK too so hopefully, eventually, I’ll be able to see some of them and yeah, it’s a little bit of a home away from home.
On the chances of a WSL team winning the Champions League:
If you look at the signings that have been made this year in the league, because of the COVID situation, obviously, it’s not really normal, but we’ve had a few Americans coming over, and basically, every single Matilda is over here now. So I think if you look at the quality of the signings and the depth that some of the squads are putting together, I think you could definitely say that there’s going to be a team here that goes on to win the Champions League. Definitely.
On what Arsenal need to do to close the gap:
I think it’s a big game mentality. Lyon have been at the top for such a long time now that they come into games like that with a confidence that they’re going to win. And I think that’s something that at that top level in those big games that not every player, not every club holds to that level or, or has the ability to do. I think the quality of the players and the football that teams here are playing is definitely up to standard and on their day could come up against Lyon and win. But I think in those big games, they just have that strong mentality and that confidence – that little bit of mental edge is what gets them over the line. That’s something that you just get from playing in bigger games consistently.
On the interest in the WSL in Australia:
It’s been on our radars for a while and it’s just been more about waiting for the right time where the league has really sort of started to take off. I think the last few years, it’s gone from strength to strength and the quality of the players that are here, it really is on par with America. Now a lot of the quality Americans are actually over here. I think you could argue that right now, this is the place where you want to be playing football because you’re coming up against the best players in the world week-in, week-out.
On how having so many Matildas in the WSL can help their national team:
I think that’s been the most positive thing out of this. Seeing that just about every single one of our national team players is now over, I’m pretty sure, just in Europe playing. That’s something we haven’t had for a long time, we’ve always had six, seven, maybe more in America but lots stayed home, so I think it’s massive. It’s going to take our national team to another level that we’re all in professional environments playing a lot of games.
On how it can help her:
It’s a chance to get out of my comfort zone and be surrounded by incredible players that I can learn from and hopefully get some chemistry with on the field and play some really good football. I’m just hoping that I can learn enough here and play a different style of football that my game goes to another level.
On how having a break might help Australia too:
There’s definitely moments in camps where you look around and everyone does seem exhausted making those trips in from the US constantly and then never actually having an off-season. It definitely catches up with you and I think that’s been a problem for us at major tournaments – we’ve gone in with a full squad and then had players break down pretty quickly and then you have to reshuffle your team and people are not playing in their preferred positions and you have no depth because you’ve got so many injuries. So, as small of a thing that it seemed in the past, the last few years I think it’s definitely caught up with our bodies. I definitely have no regrets playing [in America] for as long as I did because I got so many games in and played with so many different players and learned so much. It’s about looking after yourself and being in a professional environment and being able to get that break. Here in England you can have both those things so I think it’s been a really good decision for all of us.
And finally, some precise answers to some very random questions:
Any pet peeves? Loud chewers.
Do you believe in life on other planets? I believe that there’s potential for life on other planets, but I don’t believe in aliens!
Any motto or advice you live by? “There’s no failure, only feedback”. I like this one because it reminds me not to fear failure. It takes bravery to always try your best and to put yourself out there. But if you remember that every time something doesn’t work out, it’s not failure, it’s just an opportunity to learn and get better, then you’ll try just about anything!
Where would we find you at a party? On the floor playing with the dog.
What’s the phone app you use most? Instagram.
What would you rather be covered in, fur or scales? 100 per cent fur. Don’t want to feel or smell like fish.
Have you ever disliked something and changed your mind? Most recently, prawns! I used to hate all seafood but I’m slowly coming around.
What’s on your travel bucket list? Greece and the Maldives.
If you saw a puddle would you walk around it, over it or through it? Depends how big it is…? But usually over it or around, I own many pairs of white shoes so.. avoid at all costs.