On Thursday 11th May comes one of the most anticipated events of the Varsity series Football. Impact Sport caught up with UoN midfielder Ellie Readman and centre-back Joanna Loayza, who are looking to make amends for last year’s heartbreak, and end a four-year losing streak.

Let’s start with your awesome form in BUCS. Played 10, won 8, drawn 2, lost 0 and a goal difference of 40! What’s the secret; and can you carry it through to Varsity?

Joanna: “I know, it’s amazing. There’s been a massive change since last year. Our coach has helped us to stabilise everything and get our consistency. Our new players, the Americans, have contributed to our success. We’re just a big team and big family.”

“I’ve tried to change people’s attitudes.”

Last year you both were involved in the match which was so cruelly lost on penalties. Putting that behind us, what are you and your coaches doing to ensure that this time the job gets done in normal time?

Joanna: “We are in a different situation I think. Last year they [NTU] were first in the league by one point, this year we are first in the league having not lost a game, whilst they are third. We have the mindset that we are better – which will motivate us to beat them.”

If it does come to that again, the dreaded penalties… do you know who will step up?

Ellie: “We don’t actually know yet. Last year we really weren’t anticipating that. We didn’t know before the game who would take the penalties for us.”

Joanna: “We also thought there was gonna be extra-time, which didn’t happen.”

Ellie: “Yeh so for us it was a bit of a shock that we had to have penalties straight after normal time.”

Both are laughing as Ellie suggests that “This year we probably will have a little discussion on who it might be.”

But would either step up if their team needed them?

Ellie: “It’s up to the players. The coach shouldn’t have to choose. But in the last game of the season I missed a penalty so I probably won’t be up first!”

Joanna was quick to point-out to her team-mate, however, that her penalty was very close and had hit the crossbar, so we might still see Ellie make the long walk for the crucial spot-kick.

“It was a huge shock to us. No one knew about it and to be honest no one was expecting it… The folding of the club limits our options in training, friendly matches and the possibility to play for them.”

As per usual, the women’s match will take place just before the men’s – but Ellie raised an interesting point that this format actually devalues the women’s game:

“This is my third year and for the past two years I’ve noticed that a lot of people turn up around half way through the second-half of our game. Just to ‘see the end’; ‘check the result’; ‘Oh we’ll watch them for fifteen minutes and then we’ll watch the men’s game.”

“I’ve tried to change people’s attitudes. I think the main issue, especially with football, is how it’s such a long day. If you’re watching two football matches; both ninety minutes long; there’s a break in between and you’ve got to get there before it starts, you know what I mean? I think people aren’t willing to sit in the same seat for that long.”

“I can understand why they have it on the same day, with having to book Meadow Lane. It’s an issue we can’t really get around – but I do think it’s an issue.”

So, would you like to see it as its own event then? Not one put alongside the men’s – but maybe on its own day?

Joanna: “I think it would help. I think more people would come.”

Ellie: “There’s a risk though that if we have our own separate day, the people that come at the end of our match to watch the men’s game just wouldn’t come. It’s a difficult situation.”

For Ellie and Joanna, there must be quite a lot of anticipation before playing at Meadow Lane, the home of the oldest Football League Club, and one of the most successful teams in the women’s game.

Joanna: “It’s a very different atmosphere, the pitch feels a lot bigger, people are watching you and you want to do your best. It pushes you, when you think you can’t run anymore.”

Ellie: “Some players thrive on it; they love that people are watching and they want to impress. Some think they might cave under the pressure. But it doesn’t matter because they know the rest of the team will help them, we’re like a family.”

Notts County Ladies F.C. unfortunately dissolved shortly after this interview, however, a development that will greatly concern UoN Football – who had formed a sister partnership with the club and shared many players and coaching staff.

But Joanna later told us how she is still confident that it won’t take anything away from what will be an exciting day at Meadow Lane:

“It was a huge shock to us. No one knew about it and to be honest no one was expecting it. As our coach works with Notts County she tried to involve us as much as possible with their club. We’ve had friendly matches with the developmental team and especially before Varsity we trained with the first and developmental squad and now that’s not possible anymore.”

“One of our players was training with them on a regular basis as well and now that has been taken away from her. The folding of the club limits our options in training, friendly matches and the possibility to play for them. However, we have to look forward now and concentrate on Varsity.”

Will ex-Notts County teammates be on opposing sides in Varsity?

Ellie: “Some from County’s development side also play for Trent. But it will be a very different atmosphere. Although a lot of the girls will have been on the same team at County it will not be anything friendly once they’re on the pitch.”

Predictions?

Joanna: “I think we’re gonna win. If you just look at the league, we have been consistent. I know we drew twice against Trent, home and away, but I think we’ll push ourselves and we’ll win.”

“We know how Trent play. They are quite aggressive. In my opinion they don’t really play beautiful football, they just kick it and then use their aggression to try and score. We try to be intelligent and play very beautiful football. We create a lot of chances so we just have to get the ball in the net.”

Ellie: “We need to match them on aggression this year. We always take it up a level in Varsity and give them a good fight, but now we need to manage our game so that we are being assertive – in the sense that we are putting in good challenges, but not fouling like they do. Hopefully then we’ll gain an advantage through the Ref, if they’re a decent one!”

“So yeh, ten nil!”

Tom Monks

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