Credit: James Boyes
You returned to Charlton Athletic in 2020 having come through the youth setup and debuting for the first team. How are you enjoying being back at the club and how would you describe a club such as Charlton Athletic?
I am really enjoying being back at the club. It is a really great environment to be in. When I arrived it was so fresh and I felt like it was a new start for me. I only got to play two games and then the whole Coronavirus situation happened so that was a bit annoying but throughout quarantine we done on-line zoom sessions in our back garden with the manager so we all stayed really connected through Zoom which was good.
We have gone back in pre season since we have been able to be tested and training has also been really intense and training is really competitive and demanding on each other’s game and also from the staff. We have really high standards and everybody really gets along on and off the pitch as well which is a massive positive. There are still a few players at the club from when I made my debut so they have been there the whole time and it really great to be back playing with them so it feels like a bit of a home coming to be honest.
You player four seasons for Crystal Palace. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
Crystal Palace was a great club to be part off and I have many good memories from my time at the club and we had a couple of really successful seasons competing for promotion and playing in a few cup finals unfortunately we did not win them but it was a great experience and I feel when I was there we all had a main goal.
We wanted to win the league and it is really good when you are winning week in and week out, unfortunately we did not win the league or the cup finals but it was a really great group to be with and In my last two seasons we were playing in the Women’s Championship and one of my highlights was being fortunate enough to score Crystal Palace’s first goal in the Championship v Lewes but my main memory would be captaining the team at Selhurst Park.
It was a brilliant experience playing on the pitch and being captain and leading the team out. It was a really special moment, we had fans there and my family and friends were also there which was there. Nice memories to be honest.
You have been capped by your country of Northern Ireland. How do you look back on representing your country and what are your highlights and memories of playing international football?
When I made my debut it was amazing and just to called up to the team and the whole experience was mad. You are flying to another country to play football and you never expect that football can take you so far when you are a young girl wanting to play football. I am fortunate enough to play for my country and travel the world playing for Northern Ireland.
My family and myself are so proud of everything that I have achieved for club and country. My main highlight would be playing away again the Netherlands in the European qualifiers. It was probably my best footballing experience playing in front of 35,000 fans. You could not hear the player next to you, you could not hear what the manager was saying and I had never had such an experience before.
I think that is how Premier League players with the fans screaming and shouting. The Dutch fans were singing so loud and there was also a Mexican wave and also fireworks and explosions before the match, it was such a good experience that so many fans came to watch a women’s football game. That is the moment where I thought women’s football is really going to go somewhere.
Another great international football memory was when we played Italy away and we were the underdogs and we were not expected to win at all but every game you go out hoping and wanting to win. We had our pre match presentation with staff and players and our manager put on Susan Boyle from the X Factor and we were all sitting there thinking is our manager mad. What is going on we have got a game tomorrow.
Why is he playing Susan Boyle? and then it turned out that he was telling us that a victory would be unexpected and nobody expected Susan Boyle to do how she did and she went onto win so he portrayed that we are going to be the underdogs in this game and we are going to win it and it was such a great team talk and when we won the game on the coach we all started chanting SuBo and it was one of those moments where you think and I will never ever forget that memory and the way in which it all worked out and it remains a great memory for me when playing for Northern Ireland.
You have accrued a lot of experience at club and international level in you career. Could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?
Yes, For me Rachel Furness who currently plays for Liverpool FC and also Northern Ireland. She literally has everything and is probably one of the best players that I have played with. I have never met a player that will win every header and score so many goals with her head. It is like the ball is attached to her head. She is an amazing player and when I play with her I appreciate what a good player she is.
Simone Magill of Everton FC and Northern Ireland. She also has it all. She scores fantastic goals and is twisting and turning. Even off the pitch with her personality and she really has a deep love for football and is a great player.
Laura Rafferty currently on loan at Bristol Women from Brighton & Hove Albion she is a fantastic player. She is so composed on the ball and her communication is games is fantastic. It is great to play in the midfield with her behind you as a centre back because she talks to you continuously and it really helps you through the game and it is a really big part of football Rachel Newborough who played for Charlton Women with me. She has probably got the best work rate of any player I have ever played with she continues to run up and down and tackle. She is a great defender and also a really great person on and off the pitch.
Grace Fisk who now plays for West Ham Ladies. We played together at Millwall Lionesses and she has also been involved with the senior women’s England squad. She is a very near and tidy player and also very aggressive but off the pitch she is a quiet and timid person. Zola who currently plays for Liverpool. We played together at Millwall Lionesses and she is a great attacking player who has so much flare and she often shows that on the pitch when she is taking players on. It was great to see progression as a kid coming through at Millwall Lionesses and what she is doing now also being with the England senior squad.
Gemma Bryan who I played with at Crystal Palace. She just scored so many goals and I would love to know the statistics how many times I assisted her to how many goals she scored. It was great playing with such a goalscorer where I could run in behind. She was a great striker to play with.
I can imagine in your position as a striker that you have played against many difficult opponents so far in your career. Could you say which opponents have stood out to you in terms of talent and ability?
I remember playing for Charlton Athletic v Liverpool when I was 16 years old and Farrah Williams was playing then. I remember it was my first pre season with the senior team and I remember that Farrah was pinging the ball about switching play and I was just a kid thinking wow she is amazing.
Jordan Nobbs of Arsenal is a very impressive player really patient and she has a great work rate. Lieke Martens when I played against the Netherlands. She is a fantastic player obviously I knew how good she was and everything about her really. Rachel Furness and Danielle van de Donk too. Millie Bright I remember when she played centre midfielder for Doncaster Belles and thinking how good she was then and now she is playing centre back for Chelsea Ladies and she has gone far.
Fran Kirby to see her progression and longevity having played against her at a young age. She really does have everything as a player.
Finally Ciara. Could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional football so far in your career?
When I started my career Paul Mortimer was the women’s first team manager at Charlton Athletic and he literally coached me from the start to where I am now and everything he taught me I took on board and he was a great manager for me personally and the team and I really respected him and I listened to everything he said and I still thank him today for the role he played in my development.
My academy manager at Charlton Athletic was James Blackwell and he was also under 19’s manager and he brought me into football and made my enjoy it and he was a fun but also very serious manager and he played a key part in my career.
At Millwall Lionesses I was managed by Alberto & Les and they made me become a senior player and I had the responsibility of becoming vice captain and captain of the development team and they really respected me as a player and I really got along with them and they were both great coaches.
Alfie Willey of Northern Ireland gave me my debut and I would say he has a key role on my career because all the things he said about the changes you have to make and how to become a professional athlete and not just a player. My current Charlton Athletic manager Riteesh Mishra made me enjoy my football again as I fell out of love with it and he really believes that I could get back into football again and start enjoying it and that I could really go somewhere. He has a different style of coaching and management and I am really enjoying learning again because for a while I was not developing and he has helped me and coached me new things which is great and ever at the age of 28 I never stop learning and I am being coached again which is great.