Interview: Leeds United’s Caitlin Gough

Photo: Russell Gough

After the disappointment of her club, Guiseley Vixens being liquidated after the 2018/19 season, Cailtin Gough found a new home with Leeds United. Prior to the ending of the National League season, Cailtin was enjoying her time in the U23s and hoping her performances would see her rewarded with a place in the first-team squad. I was fortunate to have some time to catch up with Caitlin and find out more about her time in youth football and how she is coping during lockdown.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 18 and from York, I play as a right/left full-back and have played football since I was around 4 years old. I have just finished my first year at the University of Leeds studying Chemistry. Growing up I have always supported Liverpool as that is where my mum’s side of the family is from, although since moving to Leeds and now playing for them I also support Leeds United, I often go to Elland Road to watch the men’s games.

Who was your biggest footballing inspiration while growing up?
Growing up, being a massive Liverpool fan, I always looked up to Steven Gerrard, I found his work ethic and leadership style inspiring.

When I was 8 I got a personalised signed photo of him for Christmas, I still have it hanging up at home. Sue Smith was also a big inspiration of mine, I remember watching her play in an FA cup final for Leeds United when I was younger and through playing for North Yorkshire Girls Centre of Excellence (now York City RTC), I got the chance to meet her several times. Whenever she spoke to me she was extremely encouraging and getting to talk to someone who was so successful in the Women’s game gave me the belief that someday I could go far in football too.

Now I would say my main role model is Lucy Bronze, as to me she is arguably one of the best full-backs in the world, I love her playing style and I hope to emulate that in my game.

Could you tell me about your experience at youth football?
I first played for Haxby Town JFC when I was 4, I was the only girl in the team and I definitely think that sparked my level of competitiveness as from the start I felt I had to prove myself. I loved playing with the boys and at school, I was asked to play for the boys and girls football teams, I have since gone back to my primary school as an assistant coach for both the boy’s and girl’s teams.

I was then scouted for North Yorkshire Girls Centre of Excellence when I was 8 when I left Haxby Town the coach bought me a different trophy that had a girl on it as opposed to the rest of the boys’ ones. When I went to secondary school and could no longer play with the boys, I started the first girl’s team and captained it throughout my time at school. When I was in the sixth form I was the first girl to be asked to play in the staff vs students game.

I played for North Yorkshire/York RTC for 8 seasons where I had some great coaches and made loads of great friends. I think my most important season at York was my last season, I had a tough first half of the season where I had a coach who didn’t give me many minutes on the pitch, however much this was probably my biggest lowlight, in ways it defined me as a player and I don’t think I have ever learnt so much from a season. I worked so hard and put in a lot of extra training to prove him wrong and mid-way through the season I started to get full games. In one of my final games for York, I put in a goal stopping tackle that allowed us to beat Leeds 1-0, despite me being taken off the pitch injured this was one of my greatest highlights and it proved to me the importance of resilience.

How important was your time at Guiseley Vixens in your development?
Playing at Guiseley Vixens was very important to my development, all of the coaches and players were very supportive which made the transition to open age football a lot easier. Training with the first team pushed me as a player and all of the first team players were very encouraging, I enjoyed every second of my time at Guiseley.  My highlight was my first team league debut against Nottingham Forest, where I had a real opportunity to prove myself, after this game, I started to get more first-team experience and that has certainly helped me now going on to Leeds United.

Another highlight for me was winning the ‘Above and Beyond Award’ in my final season at Guiseley, I will always be thankful to everyone at Guiseley for allowing me to be the player I am today.

How do you balance your football and your day job (or studying if appropriate)?
Playing at academy level from such a young age has instilled in me a level of discipline that I have needed to be able to pursue both my football and my academia. I have always enjoyed the balance of football with school/university rather than seeing it as a problem, having a physical outlet for stress through the enjoyment of football has always helped my studying rather than hindered it, the time when I struggled most was in fact when I had injured my MCL and was out for six months. I find doing all my work as soon as I get it is the best way to avoid missing out on anything, even when studying Chemistry at University (a very demanding course with high contact hours) I don’t feel that I have to make too many sacrifices to maintain both my training and studying.

Prior to lockdown how do you feel the season was going for you personally and for the team as a whole
This season was my first season at Leeds United and I feel I have been growing in confidence, the opportunity to train at Thorpe Arch with such great facilities is amazing and I have enjoyed my opportunities to train with the first team when asked. I feel that this season has gone very well, and I have enjoyed my season in the u23s, as a team, we have had a great season and we were pushing for the league title and promotion. I feel as the season went on we were improving every game, we started off as a new team and our performances have improved massively over the course of the past year.

Photos: Russell Gough

How much are you missing football?
I am massively missing football and I can’t wait to get back on the pitch! Luckily my brother plays football too so we have been playing a lot of football in the garden, but I really miss the intensity of training and the competitive nature of a matchday.

How are you spending time your time staying fit and entertained during this period of lockdown?
I have made myself a weekly fitness programme as a way of staying fit and to keep my strength up while I can’t go to the gym and I am also doing 5K runs to keep up my endurance. In terms of football, I have been using my football trampoline and BetterKickLife (who I have since become a brand ambassador for) to practice my control. I am also getting ahead with university work so when I go back in October I can balance my football and studying easier.

When football eventually is back up and running can we expect to see you back at Leeds United and what will be your targets?
I am hoping to stay at Leeds United and I hope to build on the past season. I hope that as an u23s team we can go on to win the league, winning more games than we did this season and I also hope to get more opportunities with the first team to prove myself.

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