Karen Carney, Birmingham City and England winger, has opened up about her passion for football and how she always knew that the England shirt would be part of her journey.
“I started when I was very young, it was a bit of a whirlwind. I started playing when I was 11, by 14 I was pretty much full time, and then at 16 I moved away from home to play.
"People at school didn’t understand what I was doing so there was bullying. If I was in the situation now, people at school would understand, football would be the ‘cool’ thing, but back then it was still developing.
“From the start I had the passion for it. I was dancing at the time but dancing never really had my heart, football did. I lived for football.”
Having had her talent discovered at such a young age, the people around Carney at that time became very influential. One such individual, who she refers to as an ‘idol and friend’, is retired professional Marcus Bignot.
“Marcus was a pro and QPR’s captain when I first met him. He was my coach from 11. I had unbelievably great parents but he was my football father, I idolised him. He’s still my mentor now. He is football.
“Even from that time, I 100% knew I’d play for England, there was no doubt I wouldn’t.
"I got upset at one tournament because there was an England scout there and I thought they hadn’t written my name down.
"I was only about 12 but I knew I’d make it. It sounds a bit arrogant but I always had the self-belief. I ended up getting picked for England U17s when I was 13.”
Of all of the things that made Karen stand out as a player, her black and white attitude to the game is one of them.
“You have to strip it back. Do what you do to have fun, to enjoy it and be passionate about it. It’s easy to forget why you play. You’ve just got to strip it back, do what you did as a kid and enjoy it.
“Football is about 11 people versus 11 people and who wants it the most. It’s not about who has the best facilities, it’s about the passion and the love of the game. As a kid you didn’t have the best facilities, you just had to work hard and enjoy it, and at 27 it should be no different.”