Former Portsmouth and Watford full-back, Lauren Peck, is currently plying her trade with Fulham in the London & South East Regional Division, the fifth tier of women’s football. We were fortunate to welcome Lauren onto one of our first podcasts. We discussed topics like contracts and transfers in women’s football but today we catch up and find out more about Lauren’s background and recent experiences in football.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Currently play as a wing back/ fullback and I support Portsmouth!
Who was your biggest footballing inspiration while growing up?
My dad always had a big influence on how I would play; I would always ask him for advice on how I could be better. In regards to players, I always looked up to Hannah Blundell, she worked her way up through the ranks at Chelsea and last year made her debut for England.
Could you tell me about your experience at youth football?
So I started playing for Chelsea age 8. I was at my Sunday League side, Molesey Juniors and there was an advertisement saying there were trials for Chelsea Academy. I was at Chelsea till I was 19 and I played pretty much every position apart from goalkeeper and centre back (no shock there considering im 5ft.)
From Chelsea I then moved to QPR first team, It would often take me 3 hours to get to training to unfortunately that didn’t last very long. I knew someone who was at Portsmouth and they managed to get me an invite to come down and train, a week later I was signed and I was there for 2 seasons.
After my second season at Portsmouth, Watford put a seven-day approach in for me and as I am not that far from where they trained I thought I would give it a shot. Unfortunately, my first and only season at Watford was cut short in October with me first tearing my hip flexor and being out for 6 weeks then coming back and 2 weeks later tearing my MCL and meniscus.
I really struggled with my knee injury and decided it was all too much so I quit football in March. A couple of months went by and I realised how depressed I was without football in my life. I re-evaluated where I was mentally and also with my injury. I knew someone who was at Fulham and decided to message her and ask her about her experiences with the club. She had nothing but positive things to say about the club, players and managers and to me it was a no brainer. The manager invited me down in pre-season and haven’t looked back ever since.
How important was your time at Portsmouth in your development?
For me Portsmouth was probably the turning point in my career and will always be grateful for what Jay Sadler done for me. When you play at an academy from such an early age you are put in a bubble and are sort of oblivious to the outside world. I had top facilities, top coaches and kind of indestructible feeling. Once your bubble pops you are completely on your own and I didn’t know what to do. I joined Portsmouth with minimal confidence in my ability, but from working with Jay and the coaching team around him he worked on my confidence and my fitness. From the moment I joined there was an instant family feeling which is why I fell in love with the club.
Is there one particular highlight during your time at Portsmouth?
In regards to the team, when we won the county cup 10 years in a row was definitely one of my highlights. Also when we got to play at Fratton Park for the first time!
On a personal level, I was quite ill in September 2018 which was going into my second season at the club, I had a second random seizure which meant I would miss 2 months of the season due to medical tests but the club and players never made me feel isolated, they were constantly there for me which showed how much of a team we were!
During your time at Portsmouth you became a big fan of the men’s team. What is it about the club that stole your heart?
From being at the club I got to meet a range of different people from men’s players, coaches and fans. There is an instant community connection with the club and for some reason I just felt like I was at home. There was a lot of interaction on twitter, people tweeting the club and myself to say that they had been to the game or they had seen us on the big screen at Fratton Park and it made a lot of the girls feel important and like we actually mattered and had an impact on the club. Most people know but I grew a very close connection with Ian & Abby Chiverton who had a massive part to play in me falling in love with the club.
Ian bought Abby down to her first game when it was my first season at the club, he tweeted me saying he would bring her down and asked if I could come over and say hello. I did and Abby I have been so close ever since! Definitely a fan for life now.
How did to feel playing at Fratton Park against QPR?
There’s no better feeling if I am honest. Playing on freshly cut grass, which plays like carpet. Seeing your face up on the big screen and hearing your name in the line-up. An opportunity I will always be eternally grateful for, not only have played there once, but twice!
From Portsmouth you returned back to London to play for Watford. Didn’t your father used to play for Watford?
He did! He was 19/20 at the time and Watford got him from Swindon. Unfortunately, my dad was also playing professional squash at the same time so 1 sport had to take a back seat and he chose to pursue squash.
Your time at Watford was cut short due to injury and you’re now plying your trade at Fulham. How has the season been for you personally and the team?
This season has probably been one of my most enjoyable for me on a personal level, I’m back enjoying the sport I love and can see myself doing it for a long time! Unfortunately this season was also cut short after I fractured a joint in my ankle but I already for the next season to start!
You are in a really competitive league with some strong teams including Dulwich Hamlet and QPR. Which opponent has been the toughest you’ve faced this season?
Unfortunately due to my injury I never got to play Dulwich, but I would say QPR anyway just because my 1v1 battles were hard but I remember enjoying that game and running a lot!
How do you balance your football and your day job?
Luckily all of my jobs have been very understanding. When I was at Portsmouth, I used to work in Esher so work would let me leave an hour early in order to get to training. Unfortunately it’s something that most female footballers have to do, so we are very used to late nights and early mornings!
How are you spending time your time staying fit and entertained during this period of lockdown?
I’m trying to get my 5k time down to 25 minutes before pre-season but I have to say, running distance isn’t my favourite! I’ve been doing lots of HIIT sessions. Just trying to do something every day just to keep not only my body but my mind ticking over!