We caught up with Liverpool and England star Casey Stoney as she helped launch the 2017 McDonald’s Community Awards.
GOTB: The McDonald’s Community awards have kicked off again. What does it mean for you to be part of them as an Ambassador?
CS: It’s a great opportunity to get out and speak about a lot of the work that I think goes unseen in grassroots football. It gives me a chance to meet the kids and the parents, who nine times out of ten are the ones who are running the clubs. I get to see the great work McDonald’s are doing in the community to help grassroots because we all know that without it, there is no game. It is something I am really keen on and I want to try and get more girls playing in any capacity that I can.
GOTB: You have been working with McDonalds for several years now, what have you seen to be the most successful part of the work they do?
CS: For me, it is the huge amount of work that they are doing within grassroots. The awards that they are launching are fantastic because grassroots coaches and volunteers do not get a lot of recognition. So to be able to nominate someone and give them the opportunity to go to Wembley and pick up an award in recognition for what they do is really important.
Also the kit campaign that McDonalds run and the free shirts that they give out. When I was young, the kit was often borrowed from another team so to turn up with your own kit – it might not seem a lot to some people – but it gives that child an identity. It means they can turn up and be a part of something.
GOTB: You moved to Liverpool over the winter. How have you settled into your new surroundings?
CS: So far, so good! It’s obviously a completely different challenge. Going from South to North was one change in itself – it’s a bit wetter and windier here. But it was definitely the right move for me. The girls have been fantastic and the manager is brilliant. Pre-season is hard but that is what it’s all about. It’s a fantastic city and I am really looking forward to the season.
GOTB: How has pre-season been going for Liverpool as a whole?
CS: Really good and really tough. It’s been a lot of running which is what you expect in order to get us to the levels that we need to be at to play the way the manager wants. But I have really enjoyed it so far. I’m not afraid of hard work – the fitter you are, the easier things become.
GOTB: What are your expectations for the Spring Series coming up?
CS: I think it will be an interesting one because it depends on how each team plays it. It is a Spring Series and not actually the official league so it gives managers the opportunity to play players they need to look at, younger players that need playing time, and players that are going to major tournaments and need minute. I’m looking forward to seeing all the new additions teams have made and the players that are coming to this league. Carli Lloyd for instance is an incredible signing for Manchester City; Ramona Bachmann and Crystal Dunn for Chelsea; Heather O’Reilly at Arsenal; and Kim Little coming back. I think it bodes really well and it is really exciting that they want to play here.
GOTB: It is also a big year on the international front with the European Championships. How do you approach such a big tournament to make sure you get a place on that plane?
CS: I think for me it is to train as hard as I ever have. I am not someone who likes a day off anyway. I think that everything you do today is about what makes you better for tomorrow. I need to put myself in the best place I can physically and play well for my club. That is all you can do. You can only control what you can and then it’s up to the manager. I have just got to make sure I am good around the environment when I am with England, that I am doing everything I can and tick every box so that I am in contention.
GOTB: You played in Kelly Smith’s celebration game on Sunday. Were you excited for the occasion?
CS: As soon as I was contacted it was something I said yes to. There is never going to be another Kelly Smith in this country so it felt right to go and celebrate her moving away from the playing side of the game. I was desperate to be a part of it.
GOTB: How are your coaching badges progressing?
CS: I’m going through my A License and I have to say I am really enjoying it. The next best thing to playing is coaching so I’m loving the journey that I’m on. I just need to get on the grass a bit more once I’ve settled in Liverpool because that is where you learn. I am part way through it and I’ve got the second half to do this year at some point.
GOTB: What would be your biggest piece of advice to young girls wanting to enter football at any level?
CS: Don’t let anything stop you and don’t have a fear of failure or trying because we’ve all failed at some point and we’ve all made mistakes, but actually it’s the fun part of football. I mean I’m 34 and I still play like I’m a kid in the playground so it’s a fantastic game. Just find out where your local team is and give it a go. Football can give you so much enjoyment in many different ways.
GOTB: The two little ones are growing up quickly and we often see them running around the pitch at the end of games. How does it feel having them there and letting them see you represent your country?
CS: I don’t think there is anything that makes me prouder or more motivated if I’m honest. If I know they’re there and I know that they’re watching, I am just so desperate to do well for them. I want them to see their mum play for England and I want them to see their mum succeed. I want to be a really good role model for them, on and off the pitch, and teach them the right way to do things. Everything I do now is for them.
Casey Stoney volunteered for the day at grassroots football club Wandgas FC to help launch the 2017 McDonald’s Community Awards. Nominate any deserving grassroots heroes at www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards