In Carly Telford’s latest column for The Offside Rule, the goalkeeper discusses her recent time of emotion, Chelsea being in contention for the WSL title, goodbyes to three retiring players, and England duty.
A period of emotion
A lot has gone into these past few weeks and it’s been an accumulation of a lot of emotion for me. I had a brilliant couple of weeks away with England where I started both games, but unfortunately came back to some pretty devastating news about my mum.
That meant I missed the FA Cup semi-final which I was due to play in because I headed home that weekend. I spent a lot of time with my family, we found out my mum has bone cancer as a result of her breast cancer previously. We don’t know the extent of how long she’s got left but it’s been a pretty devastating time.
I knew I wasn’t going to play the semi-final against Manchester City which was going to put my selection for the final in doubt. I’d played every FA Cup game until then but for me family always comes first and Fran [Kirby] sent my mum a lovely message after the game and all the girls were really good.
The final gave my mum something to look forward to, unfortunately our Champions League campaign recently came to a bittersweet end but it was still amazing to be a part of for me.
We had to get our heads around preparing for a cup final. I’ve been to a few and I was just praying this was the time I’d get to pick up a winner’s medal as opposed to a runners-up medal.
I had a great run with Leeds, then with Chelsea and then Notts County at Wembley but never won. At 2-0 I thought we had it but then it went to 2-1 and I was praying we didn’t do what we did last time against Birmingham City when we threw it away at the end.
But we have a group of girls who have been through a lot and a great strike partnership in Fran and Ramona Bachmann, they showed their quality and we showed the quality in depth overall.
I had a few tears afterwards, partly because of what I’d been through in the last few weeks but because I’d finally got my hands on the FA Cup instead of coming second.
It was mad walking up there and watching the trophy get passed a long, I gave it a big kiss! You watch players do it on TV and it’s an accumulation of all the hard work you’ve done put into this little piece of metal.
To get your hands on it is all you could ever wish for me in football, I just walked around for the next two hours saying I couldn’t believe it, finally.
It’s a funny old thing, football. If you’d said 18 months ago all this would happen, it’s crazy. I said to Drew [Spence] in the changing room that just over a year ago I didn’t have a team and now I could be about to pick up my third trophy in 12 months.
It’s the strangest turnaround you could ever think would happen but everything happens for a reason and hopefully now I can set out to do the things I couldn’t with a club that I loved in Notts County.
My mum and dad, gran and grandad, brother and sister were all there so it was a really emotional day and a day I’ll never forget.
Closing in on the title
I think if you look at us, Manchester City and Arsenal, we’re pretty even in our squad of players but I think we benefited from keeping as many players fit as we could bar Kaz Carney and Anita Asante.
Man City had a couple of big injuries that hit them early on and they’ve had to rely on some of their youth.
Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck have been brilliant and credit to the club for doing it, but Emma [Hayes] has managed to put together a side that has gelled and pulled together if we’re losing or drawing towards the end of a game and get a result.
The main thing for us is we’ve been unbeaten and we have to look to finish that off now. Everyone’s looking at us and saying it’s ours to lose and it is, but we have to go and do the job now because Bristol and Liverpool aren’t bad sides, they can sit deep with a low block and frustrate you.
We’re lucky enough Beth England won’t be able to play for Liverpool but it’s a team full of talented players who can upset games. Arsenal are still in the race but we just have to do the business, we have a job to do and that’s focus on our games and executing our game plan. If we do that the title is ours.
Goodbye to three legends
Claire Rafferty is one of my best friends in football, we started a journey together first time around at Chelsea a long time ago now when the FA WSL first started.
Raff had been here for about five years already but she sums up what Chelsea is all about. Hard work, determination and a squad full of players like her who want to better themselves. To go through what she has with three ACL injuries to play in the World Cups, Olympics is incredible.
She’s a fantastic player and person and I know whatever she decides to do next she’ll be very good at it. She’s keeping her cards close to her chest and I hope she does keep playing football, she has good opportunities outside of football with her job but I hope she stays in the game regardless and I’m sure she will.
I’m so lucky to have been such good friends with her. We’ve had so many memories with each other and one of those will always be picking up a bronze medal with her at the World Cup in Canada.
Me, her and Toni [Duggan] had a really good friendship at that World Cup, we made a lot of memories together and had a lot of laughs as well as a lot of hard times between us all. She’s a great girl and I wish her well, hopefully we can give her the send-off she deserves.
With Katie Chapman, I don’t think there will be many people who do what she’s done. To play at the top of the game with three children for as long as Katie has, I think there’s only really Helen Ward and Casey Stoney who are close to her.
She’s a fantastic role model, she played in her first FA Cup final at 14 years old and there’s a lot of landmarks she’s passed. It’s a credit to who she is to play the amount of games she does and I don’t know how she does it on top of looking after three fantastic kids.
I know how hard it’s been for her this year to be in the best condition for us but she’s been a credit to herself and the club and again I hope she remains in football.
Players in this sort of era who haven’t benefited from the financial improvement in the game that some of us will and the younger players certainly will, I hope she can get the support she deserves and she’s remembered as a legend.
Alex Scott is another one where you wonder where you start with her. She’s a fantastic advocate for the game and got the send-off she deserved from Arsenal. It will be weird not having her around but it’s nice she’s still in and around the game, although it’s strange not seeing their names on the team sheet anymore.
These are all big personalities stepping away but I hope they stay in because it’s important the younger players learn from these legends and what they’ve been through to be able to perform at the highest level of the women’s game.
Back on England duty
I’ve had the conversation with my team-mates and so many people over the years. How do you play for the national team for over 10 years and only get nine caps?
But during that 10 years I’ve had some of the greatest moments of my life and experiences from being around the likes of Pauline Cope, Rachel Brown, Karen Bardsley and Siobhan Chamberlain. When I walked out at Southampton to 20,000 people the waiting was well worth it.
The last time I’d played at home I think there were around 3,000 people there before the China World Cup in 2007 when we played Scotland. All my other caps were Cyprus Cup games or places like Estonia so to be given that opportunity was amazing.
I laughed to myself because when the manager put the team up I looked at the bench and assumed I was up in the stand when I didn’t see my name on there. Then Phil [Neville] read out I was starting so it was really exciting.
It felt strange that I’d played every game for Notts County and couldn’t get a look in and now I’m not playing every game but I played both games over the international break!
I don’t ever want to take anything for granted, just because I’ve played two games doesn’t mean I’ll play or get selected against Russia but I’ll repeatedly give it my all until I can’t do it anymore or don’t get selected anymore.
We have a very good group of goalkeepers in this league and some very good youngsters coming through so I need to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. I’ve been doing that since I was 18 and I don’t intend to stop now just because I’ve played a couple of games.
The true test will come when Phil trusts me to play in a big game, that’s where you earn your money and I want to get those opportunities and hopefully keep those youngsters at bay for a while yet!
Follow Carly on Twitter – @carlytelford1