With over fifteen years of experience at the very top of women’s football, Gemma Davison has seen huge changes across the game. But like everyone else at the moment, not much could prepare her for the way in which coronavirus has shut the country down, Jessy Parker Humphreys writes.
Speaking with the Offside Rule about the impact COVID-19 has had on the women’s game, Tottenham Hotspur forward Gemma Davison said:
“It just goes way beyond football doesn’t it. Players are struggling to get home to their families in their own countries.”
“It’s a bit frustrating, you can’t train, you can’t play, but I mean all we can at the moment as players is really try to keep fit as much as we can.”
“All you can do as a club is put all the planning in place to support your players and to keep stuff ticking over. Spurs have done a great job with us.”
Gemma Davison arrived at Tottenham at the beginning of the season as they overhauled their team to prepare for their first season in the top flight. Davison meanwhile had already won the league four times with Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea (twice).
“To help be a part of building something that might be a real force to be reckoned with long term is a new challenge for me.”
The Women’s Super League
The arrivals of newly promoted Tottenham and Manchester United has certainly shaken up the old order of the Women’s Super League, with Tottenham sitting comfortably in sixth.
“A lot of pundits said that Spurs would be the ones they worried about getting relegated. The season’s not done by any means but I think we’ve exceeded expectations.”
“We were seen as a weak link in the league but you look at the table – we’re nowhere near the bottom.”
“Now we’re setting new standards for ourselves where we just need to keep pushing for more and not get comfortable.”
Davison has long been known for her ability to glide past opposition players with the ball at her feet. The quality of pitches this season means that playing her natural game has not always been easy.
“I thrive off a good surface so I can deliver what I’m good at to my absolute max.”
“The weather’s not been helpful with things and you’ve just got to adapt.”
“The only way I can look at it is I’m evolving a different side of my game so that when I can ball carry again, I’ve got lots of different elements that I can add to that to become more effective.
Becoming a little bit less predictable almost so not only can I beat players but I have different changes in my locker than I can unleash on an opponent.”
After all, she knows what it is like to play on some of the highest quality surfaces in the country. She has played in two Wembley FA Cup finals with Chelsea whilst Tottenham hosted the inaugural top flight North London Derby at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea
It was their season opener against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge though that stood out for her the most.
“When we walked out with mascots for the line ups, and you look up into the high stands and they’re full. I thought I’d never see the day where the top stands of a Premier League stadium were full.”
“At Stamford Bridge, we lost 1-0. And as gutting as that was I loved every single minute of it because that’s the stage I want to play on week in, week out”
Playing at bigger grounds in front of more fans can add an extra level of scrutiny to the teams. Any poor performance can be used as an excuse to justify the lack of funding and focus afforded to women’s football. But Davison believes that the pressure is something players just have to get used to.
“You can only learn from those experiences. If you don’t have experiences like that, you’ll never evolve as a club”
“If you think about it, the men do it [lose at big stadiums] all of the time. It is demoralising but the best teams will just pick up and go and make a difference next time.”
“If we want to play in front of crowds and that’s the expectation from people coming to watch us. And we’ve got to live up to that.”
Big crowds in women’s football
Davison is hopeful that those crowds will start to become the norm in the women’s game.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll get there. I’d love to see big crowds of 20,000 coming out.”
“It’s slow progress, we know that, and we’ll keep working hard.”
After all, Davison knows how much progress has already been made.
“When I was 19, my dad was told that women’s football would never become professional. Now look at us. Being professional, training every day, with crowds of 38,000 plus.”
“I’m so grateful I’ve managed to be in the game and play while that’s still building.”
And she intends to keep helping build it.
“I’ve still got my speed and I’m still hungry to keep learning and evolving and helping everyone around me as much as I can as well. To do what people did for me when I was younger.”
Follow Jessy on Twitter @jessyjph