Since twenty-year-old left back, Poppy Pattinson, established herself within the Manchester City youth team she’s not looked back, enjoying a spell at Bristol City which gained her the reputation as one of the rising stars within the Women’s Super League. She caught the attention of Everton boss, Willie Kirk, and transferred to the Toffees in the summer. I have had the chance to catch up with Poppy and find out what makes the girl from Tyne and Wear tick.
Who was your biggest footballing inspiration while growing up?
Rachel Yankey, similar left sided player to myself. She brought a lot of quality on the pitch but was always so professional off the pitch and I think developed the women’s game a lot and continues to do so today. My family also of course play a very big part in my motivation. The miles they have travelled to take me to training sessions and watch games from the day I started playing until now is crazy. Everything I achieve I owe to them.
Could you tell me about your experience at youth football?
Always watched my older brother when I was younger and wanted to join in. I started at Sunderland Centre of Excellence at the age of 8 before joining Manchester City development squad at 16 whilst studying at college. I signed my first professional contract at Bristol City at 18 before moving to Everton this summer.
You moved from Sunderland to Manchester City. How was that for you personally? Did you move to the area or were you commuting in?
Opportunities to play in the Women’s Super League were limited in my area with the clubs available so I felt it was necessary to join Manchester City, a club with more exposure. Whilst playing here I still was based with my family in Durham and I studied at college there. This was challenging to balance my school work with training but I managed to leave with 3 good qualifications even though commuting.
During your time at Manchester City you were part of quite a strong Development side which included the likes of Esme Morgan, Jess Park, Ella Toone, Alethea Paul and Charlotte Newsham. How important was this time in your development?
We had a very successful season being league and cup champions. I think if you look at where a lot of the girls are now it shows how that squad were able to take another step further in their individual careers after that very good season.
Were you exposed to the first team at all?
I wasn’t able to train with the first team as regular as I would have liked mainly due to me commuting. The times I did have the opportunity I enjoyed it, the atmosphere was very intense and standards were always demanded which meant you’re always going to improve being in and around that environment.
It was around this point in your career that you were establishing yourself in within the England youth teams. In your first big tournament with the U17s you went away to the 2017 UEFA Women’s Under-17 Championship’s in the Czech Republic. How did you find being away from home and bonding with your new teammates?
Every opportunity to pull on the England shirt is special. I believe we should of been more successful at this tournament but it being my first major tournament for my country it was of course an amazing experience at a young age.
Within that competition you had the high of scoring your first goal and the low of exiting the competition at the group stages. How did you manage the undoubted disappointment?
My first goal for my country was very special. I remember it was the opening group game against Ireland and I received the ball close to the half way line, looked up and saw the keeper off her line and just struck it.
Exiting the competition at the group stage was very disappointing as I strongly believe with the team we had we could of achieved very big things. Being a young player I coped with the disappointment well as I knew I would work hard to have many more opportunities to look forward to in the future.
Was it a difficult decision to leave Manchester City for Bristol City, or did it seem like the sensible option for your personal development?
Leaving Manchester City was a pretty easy decision as I knew at that stage of my development regular first team exposure in the women’s super league was what I needed and being offered my first professional contract from Bristol I was very grateful and ready to push on.
My girlfriend is from Bristol and I love visiting or friends and hanging out in the bars of North Street. How did you find settling in the area with all of your family being up in the north of England?
Bristol is a great city and my time there was very nice. I have never been a player to struggle with being away from home, I think travelling so much from an early age helped a lot with that. My family have always been so supportive so they’d travel every weekend to watch my games.
You were sadly sidelined for parts of last season. With Bristol City struggling for points early on, you must have been desperate to get onto the pitch and help steer the club to safety? How do you deal with the frustration of being out with injury, are you relaxed about it or are you bouncing off the walls waiting to get back playing?
Following on from such a great first season with the club I was gutted to pick up a nasty injury. It came at such a bad time just as I was preparing for the Euro finals too which added extra disappointment. I tried to stay as positive as possible throughout my time sidelined and support the girls in anyway I could off the pitch. My rehab was long and tiring but injury is part of the game and I’m grateful to now be back to full fitness.
I was fortunate enough to catch Everton in person last season and was hugely impressed with the club on and off the pitch. It looks like they are going about building an established WSL side that can compete with the best. How have you been settling in at the club?
Everton have big ambitions which match my own that attracted me to the club. I have settled into the club well, the team has been so welcoming and hopefully we go on to achieve something special this season.
Did any of the squad discuss the prospect of sitting top of the WSL at this point in the season? Or does Willie have you all taking it week by week?
We have own aims for the season which we want to achieve and each game we take one by one in steps to achieving them.
Speaking of trophies, the FA Cup final how was it for you personally?
I imagine mixed feelings of excitement due to the occasion but sadness of it because of the result and it being behind closed doors. Playing at Wembley is any English footballers dream and it was amazing to experience that. Hopefully we can get back there soon and bring the trophy home with us.