The former Notts County defender explains how she’s impressed with the growth of the women’s game and that she’s determined to return to form with Liverpool, when she spoke to the Offside Rule’s Rich Laverty.
It’s been a frustrating 2017 for the Liverpool Ladies defender. Injury at the start of the year means she’s hardly kicked a ball, and due to being in rehab at the time, she also found out from her Notts County team mates that the club had folded on the eve of the Spring Series.
Perhaps Monday’s Girls’ Football Week launch was another small reminder of what Turner has been missing out on. Donning the England tracksuit and coat, Turner was in good spirits as she answered questions from primary school and university students alike — having studied at Sheffield Hallam University herself before becoming a full-time professional with Notts.
“Some of the kids were coming out with brilliant questions,” she laughs. “It’s crazy, there’s a genuine interest now and it’s great that there’s a whole week dedicated to it, that wouldn’t have happened when I was their age.”
Speaking at Platt Lane Sports Complex in Manchester where Turner, along with Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, met students to offer advice and answer questions, Turner is still “surprised” by the attention she and her team mates now receive.
“Young girls want to know about my journey, they were asking me what opportunities I had and who I’d played for. It’s great that there is that excitement there,” she explains.
Turner was on hand to offer particularly useful advice to Manchester Metropolitan University students.
Having studied herself during her earlier playing days, Turner knows and understands all about the sacrifices which are made to juggle football with studying.
“It was really tough,” she admits. “Some days I found it tougher than others, you get to dissertation time and there’s so much riding on it. I just tried to manage my time in the best way possible, I guess I became a bit of a recluse in my third year!
“In my first two years of university I was playing lower league football for Leeds United and Sheffield FC, but in my third year I signed for Lincoln and that was my first professional club. I found that quite difficult, but I had good support at Hallam and from the club too,” recalls Turner.
While the Football Association have worked hard to get more girls involved and excited about women’s football through promotions with Little Mix and Disney to name a few, Turner believes it’s just as important to see the girls out on the pitch in their football kits.
“You could see how excited and hyper the girls were to be here. One of them said to me the boys were so jealous because they had to go to school and they were coming to play football. When I was a kid the norm would have been for the boys to go and do that stuff so it’s amazing that change has happened.”
In terms of Turner’s own playing career, the 26-year-old is now approaching the end of a lay-off which has still not seen her make her Liverpool Ladies debut, despite joining the club before the summer after Notts County ceased to exist.
Although the defender, who has four England caps, still doesn’t know exactly when she’ll return, she describes herself as being “within touching distance.”
“It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot,” Turner admits. “It’s been hard to put on a date on it [her return], I don’t feel too far away and I’m itching to make my Liverpool debut. I’ve done so many gym sessions on my own and that’s tough, especially when you’re starting at a new club.
“I’m confident that I’ll come back as a player people won’t recognise from my Notts days. I’d like to be back before Christmas and I’m doing everything I can, but I don’t know,” explains the defender.
Despite the mental toughness of sitting out so many games, Turner at least sees some positives that come with such a lengthy spell off the pitch.
“It’s hard sitting on the side watching all the time, but I’ve developed an understanding that I perhaps didn’t have before through watching the games.
Just one point behind Arsenal and a resurgent Reading, and a bit further behind runaway duo Chelsea and Manchester City, Liverpool currently sit where many expected after four games of the 2017/18 FA Women’s Super League season.
With the club already comfortably clear of the bottom teams, Turner hopes there’s more to come.
“I don’t think we’re fully clicking as a team yet,” she says. “We’ve had some good games and good results, but in the games against Reading and Durham we’d be expecting more. It’s early days, we’re confident we’ve got the talent to achieve big things but we need to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
Her fledgling England career can’t be ignored, given she’s sat across the table with the Three Lions badge imprinted on her coat and tracksuit bottoms, but sadly Turner’s injury came at a time where her England career was perhaps on the rise.
Having just missed out on the 2015 PFA Young Player of the Year award to Arsenal’s Leah Williamson in 2015, Turner was a late call-up to the Cyprus Cup squad by Mark Sampson after Casey Stoney pulled out injured.
Turner came on to make her debut against Australia and would make her first start a couple of days later against the Netherlands, but games have been limited since.
“My injury came at a bit of a cruel time for me,” she admits. “It was my first season of going full-time and I’d been in and around the England squad. Of course, it’s at the forefront of my mind, I want to be back in an England shirt.
“I know I haven’t achieved all I want to as a player. I haven’t reached my prime yet, but I have time ahead of me to get to that level and I have every intention of playing for England again.”
The FA Girls’ Football Week runs from Monday 6 to Sunday 12 November and gives students the opportunity to stay active in a fun and sociable way through football. Find a session near you at FAGirlsFootballWeek.com and share your experience using #JoinOurSquad to win exclusive prizes.
Keep up with Amy on Twitter @amy_turner4
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