Back at Banks's Stadium
by Andrew Poole
Wednesday, 28 July, 2010
England defender Rachel Unitt ready for homecoming against Turkey.
Local girl Rachel Unitt has more reason than most to look forward to Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Turkey at Banks’s Stadium.
“To play for your country is fantastic, but to do it in your home town makes it extra special,” said the 28-year-old who grew up on the nearby Bentley Estate.
“I’m really looking forward to the game; Banks’s Stadium is a nice place to play as the atmosphere is always good and the pitch will be like a mini Wembley.
“I was fortunate enough to score a couple of goals in my appearance here against the Czech Republic in 2005, so hopefully I can do the same again in front of family and friends.
“Turkey are a decent side; we played them five or six months ago and whilst we had all the possession, they were extremely hard to break down as they got plenty of people behind the ball.
“On that occasion we managed to score three late goals, but it was a tough encounter and we are expecting more of the same on Thursday.
“Everyone wants to beat us, but we are confident that we can get a result and give our fans something to cheer about.”
Unitt has come a long way since her days turning out for Birchills Ramblers at the age of ten.
“Back then there were only a handful of local girls' teams and no Academies for girls like me who were interested in developing their footballing skills,” she added. “I found myself training with the lads and playing for Bentley Community Boys FC.
“It was when I joined Wolves Women that things started to get serious. I had trials for the England U16s and things just took off from there.
“It’s amazing to pull on an England shirt and wear the Three Lions at any level. It has to be the pinnacle of anyone’s career; to know that I am one of the best in the country at my chosen sport means so much.”
After Wolves, Unitt moved on to Everton Ladies in 2000 before becoming part of the Fulham Ladies revolution.
Winning a domestic treble with the Londoners, who became the first women’s team in the UK to go full-time, she returned to Everton in 2004 where she remains today, despite a brief spell playing in America’s W-League with New Jersey Wildcats during the following year.
“There have been plenty of highlights in my career so far,” she went on. “The pick has to be playing in the 2005 European Championships, which were held in England, and also scoring for my country at Banks’s Stadium.
“I’ve been fortunate to play alongside some talented players and take plenty of enjoyment out of the game I love.”
So, which players have most influenced Unitt?
“Whilst I was growing up I took a lot of inspiration from Ryan Giggs,” she recalled. “He played in the same position as me back then and had so much talent and ability, which he is still displaying on a consistent basis at the top level today.
“These days players like John Terry and Joe Cole are the ones that I most admire.”
But the burning question is, does the Bentley girl follow the fortunes of her home town team?
“I don’t support any particular team but I look out for the results of all the local west Midlands clubs and want each of them to do well. Walsall is a good club and I wish them well for the season ahead.”
England's World Cup qualifier against Turkey will be shown live on FATV. For further ticket information, click here.