Interview: Lewes’ Sammy Quayle

Lewes are beloved and respected by everyone within the women’s football world, including Since 71. I have been fortunate to catch up with their midfielder, Sammy Quayle, to find out about how she got into women’s football, Simon Parker‘s promotion to first team boss, how she’s been finding lockdown and her pride in representing the black and red of Lewes.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 
I’m 24 and I grew up in Griffithstown, in South Wales. I’m a Liverpool fan so I am so glad the Premier League didn’t get voided! I play for Lewes in the Championship, and work as a teaching assistant in a high school alongside; which sometimes can be tough to juggle but allows me to play.

Who was your biggest footballing inspiration while growing up?
My dad is a huge Liverpool fan, so I grew up watching them on tele all the time! My brother used to play for a local team and my dad used to take me to watch him every weekend, I used to love going to watch him play. There was a girl on his team, Ellie Curson, and I wanted to be just like her. I joined my local team and I followed Ellie’s footsteps to Bristol, I ended up playing for Yeovil Town with Ellie as my captain! So my dad, my brother and Ellie were the reasons I started playing. Both my Welsh manager and my Bristol coach really made me feel like I could play at a high standard, they were both very influential to my development from youth into senior football.

Could you tell me about your experience at youth football?
My first club was my local boys team, when I got a bit too old I then moved to a local girls team. I made a move to Bristol Academy to join their under 16s team and stayed with them until I finished college. I grew up as a centre mid, until I made the move to Bristol and got moved to the wing.

Photo: James Boyes

How did it feel when you were first invited to take part in the Welsh youth system?  
Getting invited to take part in an international camp was the best feeling, I was so excited and very nervous at the same time. I loved representing Wales, it was a very proud moment of mine!

Do you have a personal highlight from your time with the Welsh first team?
My personal highlight has to be making my first debut, against Scotland. I actually made it on the same day as Rhian Cleverly, who I grew up with and we are now teammates again at Lewes! It was a really special day for the both of us, a pretty proud moment and one I had been waiting for for a long time.

On your CV you’ve played for Bristol Academy, Coventry City, Yeovil Town, Portsmouth and now Lewes. Did you move around while growing up or were you just forced to travel large distances in order to play for those clubs?
I didn’t move around, I just travelled a lot! My parents were very supportive and allowed me to play for any team in the country that thought would help my development, they took me all over the country (Newcastle away was a fun trip from S. Wales!). I went to Portsmouth University and travelled to Yeovil throughout my first year, it got a bit tough travelling and studying so I made the move to Portsmouth, and I just hung around on the South Coast where I joined Lewes.

Photo: Jordan Hampton

How important was your time at Coventry City in your development? 
I moved to Coventry because my U16s Bristol coach (Craig Nicholls) was there and I think it was the best thing to push my football career forwards. Craig really put a lot of effort into me and taught me so much. He was pivotal in my move from midfielder to winger and I am very grateful to have been coached by him. It was also my first senior season, which was tough but I learnt a lot! I think the Northern League made me a little bit of a tougher player!

You initially joined Portsmouth on loan, scoring twice in your four appearances. Was it an easy decision to make the move permanent? 
Moving to Portsmouth was a good decision. I enjoyed playing in the WSL2 but I picked up an injury, along with this the travelling made it very hard for me to compete. Portsmouth welcomed me from the very start with open arms, they looked after me and when my loan came to an end I felt like I still had so much to give the club, so I had no doubts about staying permanently.

Photo: Jordan Hampton

You made the move to Lewes in 2018. How did you feel making the jump to the second tier of women’s football? 
I was really excited for the challenge, I wanted to really test myself and felt like joining Lewes in the Championship was what I needed to do. I always wanted to get back into tier 2 so I had to grab the opportunity. When I first went to a training session with Lewes I was so nervous, but the girls were so nice and I instantly felt at home. It is such a welcoming club and everyone made me feel so valued straight away, it is such a special club.

I love going to the Dripping Pan! For me it is the best stadium and match day experience in women’s football. Do you have a personal highlight at the stadium?
Game days at the pan are amazing! Our fans are incredible and the match day experience at this club is something I have never experienced before, from the bands playing all our international anthems to all of our flags flying up! I have had some pretty cool experiences. For example, even though we got heavily beaten, I will always remember the day we welcomed Arsenal to the Pan. They were so good and the result wasn’t great for us but it was the first time I had experienced playing them and it is definitely an experience I won’t forget. Also, scoring my first goal at the Pan was a nice personal highlight.

While the departure of Fran Alonso must have been disappointing, how did you feel when you discovered that the assistant manager, Simon Parker, was going to be stepping up as manager? 
Simon is a great coach and is more than capable of doing the job so it made a lot of sense for him to be in that role, I don’t think the club needed anyone new to come into the role. We all know Simon’s style and we understand what he wants from us. It would have been an unsettling time if the club looked from outside the club when we had someone within the club who we all as players respect and like so much.

Photo: James Boyes

Lewes are of course well respected for their social stance on a number of issues inside and outside of football. How important is it to you that your club strives to improve their local community and the world of women’s football as a whole? Does it make you feel proud to be part of something that is more than just a football club? 
I am so proud to call myself a Lewes FC player with the message we send. I think it is really important for people to make a stand against inequality and it’s a great platform to send that message. It is inspiring to think that Lewes is making a massive difference in the world of women’s football, it makes me very excited about how far we can go to making women’s football and women’s sport equal.

How have you been finding life in lockdown?
I haven’t had the chance to see my family during lockdown so that has been hard, but working from home has kept me busy. I’ve also tried to learn how to play an instrument and bake which has been quite fun. I feel extremely lucky to live in Lewes, this part of the country is so beautiful and it has been nice to have the chance to explore it as much as I have. To step out of my front door into the South Downs has been pretty nice and with this nice weather I’ve spent most of my time outdoors!

The Football Association took the decision to void the FA Women’s Championship. How do you personally feel about the decision? 
Obviously, all of us players just want to play football, so when the news came out it was really gutting. I think it is especially gutting when other European Women’s leagues have started to finish their seasons. But ultimately, there are more important things going on than football, people’s health comes before anything else so I think it was the right decision to make. It is only a game of football.

With players now being able to train in small groups again are there plans for the squad to get together for a bit of pre pre-season training? 
I’ve been doing my own programme to keep fit but we haven’t any news as yet about small group training. I’m sure we will hear soon as the season is due to start in September; we are all itching to get back together now!

Looking forward, what are your targets for next season when it kicks off?
As a team, I think we want to progress and compete in every game in order to finish higher up the table. I think we have a really good squad that can compete with anyone — we’ve shown we can compete against strong WSL and Championship teams, but our aim is to be more consistent next season. Before the suspension in March we were starting to make real improvements under Simon, so we are all really excited to get back and work with the coaches and staff to continue these improvements as a team. Personally, I want to carry on learning and developing as a full back, put in consistent performances to help the team and to stay healthy, as I had a strange contact injury last year that meant I missed a few games before Christmas.