You have recently signed for Bordeaux in France. Are you excited to begin your adventure playing professional football abroad and what were the decisive factors in your decision to sign for the club?
I’m really excited about it. I’ve never lived in another country before so I know that’s going to be a big challenge and to learn a new language is another challenge. One of the factors that drew me in was the project that Pedro is building with the club and another was to get back to playing a style of football which suits the way I like to play. I’ve worked with Pedro at Arsenal and know how much confidence he has in me as a player and it’s always nice to have a manager who has faith in you and your abilities as a player.
You came through the youth setup at Manchester United. How do you look back on your time at the club and did you learn anything in particular that stood you in good stead for your career as a professional footballer?
I only got to spend one year there when I was 16/17 but I loved every single minute there. It was a dream come true for me to play for Manchester United. They’re my team and the club that I supported as a child so it was a huge moment when I got the letter saying I was playing there. I learned a lot from my time there, but I think for me there was an aura about the place you knew the players that had been before you (we trained at The Cliff Training Ground).
There was a respect about the place, you had to earn the right to play at a club like that. Before and after training shaking coaches hands and black boots only. No one was bigger than the club there. Didn’t matter where you came from or where you were going, it was equal. I think it gave me a perspective of remembering where you come from because without that you wouldn’t be where you are today without where you’ve been before.
You played two seasons for West Ham United. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
The obvious special moment at West Ham would be playing at Wembley. It was a special special day. Walking out on the pitch at Wembley behind Gilly Flaherty was another dream come true and hearing the West Ham fans singing pretty little bubbles loud and proud was amazing. But I think even more special was the semifinal of the FA cup away against Reading. We didn’t play particularly well but everything on that day went our way and we ground out a result. It was amazing to come together as a group and each and every player had a role on that day and worked together to grind out the result and the celebrations when Cho scored the winning penalty was mental. I think on that day we showed what kind of team we were so it was amazing to go to Wembley with that group.
You have accrued good experience in your career, could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?
I’ve played in some really good teams so a few players to pick from. Danielle Van de Donk is a very good player, very technical with the ball and I think sometimes gets overlooked in the midfield at Arsenal because they have a really good selection of players in that position, but i think over the past couple of seasons has really shone for them. Another would be Gilly Flaherty, I was shocked when I found out how young she was, she’s achieved so much at a young age and is a born leader and I learned a lot from playing behind her.
I can imagine in your position as a goalkeeper that you have come up against some difficult opponents, could you say which opponents have stood out in terms of talent and ability?
Yeah, there’s a lot of talent in the WSL in attacking positions. Luckily enough I never had the pleasure of going up against Arsenal and their attacking threats. A player that stood out for me though would be Beth England. It’s no surprise that she worked her way into the England squad recently. She’s absolutely rapid and is a great finisher.
Finally Anna, 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 footballer?
A coach that has had a huge impact on my development on the pitch and off it would be the GK coach at Arsenal, Steve Smith. He helped me mature as a player and a person and got me playing some of my best football. I keep in contact with him now and ask his advice on stuff. He was the first coach that really had a strong belief in what I could do and really worked hard with me on the pitch to achieve the things I set out to achieve in my career.
Main photograph: Katie Chan / Arsenal LFC (Red) v Kelly Smith All-Stars XI (Yellow), 19 February 2017 – post-match / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.