Interview: Moneyfields’ Sophie Kingsley-Cabell

Moneyfields are based in central Portsmouth and they have been rising through the leagues under Karl Watson. They will have believed that they were favourites for promotion into tier four had COVID not gotten their way.

I have been fortunate to have worked with Moneyfields’ captain, Sophie Kingsley-Cabell, when she turns out for the Hampshire Police team that I am involved with. Sophie is probably the best captain I have ever had the pleasure of working with, she’s reliable, reads the game well, technically gifted, can play in multiple positions, score goals, she leads by example and always there to support her teammates in any way she can. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch up with Sophie as she prepares for the big kick-off 2.0 this weekend.

Sophie, third from the right in the back row. Photo: Stuart Barker

Since 71: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sophie: I’m thinking where you’re from, your position, what club you support and anything else you want to add. 

I was in-fact born in Melbourne, Australia and moved to England when I was 18 months. I play Centre-Back for Moneyfields FC Women and support Manchester United, due to being a massive David Beckham fan back in the day! 

I also follow Portsmouth FC as it is my hometown. It would be great to see them back in the Premier League one day!

Who was your biggest footballing inspiration while growing up?
I used to play football in the park with my brothers and their friends when I was about 8 or 9, but I was always better than them! I really enjoyed it and would play football in the school playground with my friends and one day, was approached by a girl in the year above to see if I wanted to play in the school team. We went onto win our U11 Schools Final which was my first taste of success. They also asked me to go and try out at the club then known as Portsmouth Ladies (now Portsmouth FC Women) and my football career began from there. I remember two gentlemen in particular, Steve Friend and the legend who is, the late Dave Coyle who developed me as a young player. It was very much a male-dominated coaching environment in the late 1990s but this has certainly changed in the last 20 years.

Professionally, David Beckham was my footballing inspiration as I fell in love with football because of him and wanted to be just like him. Mia Hamm and Kelly Smith were the female footballers I remember growing up and seeing them on the television, in particular, the 1999 World Cup in the USA which catapulted Women’s Football to a new level!

Could you tell me about your experience at youth football? I’m thinking which clubs have you previously played for, what positions have you played in and is there a particular highlight and/or lowlight?
I was with Portsmouth Ladies from 1997- 2002. I used to play in a variety of positions when I first started but was predominantly a centre/right midfielder as I used to be able to score from quite far out and have always loved shooting. I was even the teams top goals scorer during one season!

I then got into the Southampton FC Centre of Excellence in 1998. This was a fantastic experience and I owe a lot to coaches Sue Lopez MBE and Julie Way who were the lead coaches at the time. They developed me as a player and gave me the confidence to really push myself as a player. We would play against other top Centre of Excellence teams nationally including the like of Arsenal, Fulham, Millwall and Charlton which was great experience. We even made the long trip to a Nike Premier Girls Cup competition in Durham where we came 3rd overall and played against the likes of Lianne Sanderson. 

At Portsmouth Ladies we were winning everything including league and cups from U11-U16 level, and as much as I loved it there, I decided to move on.

In 2002, I decided to join Southampton Saints WFC, who were then affiliated with the Men’s team. This was to push myself further as a player and I knew many of the players because of the Hampshire team I played for. During this time as a youth player, I represented Hampshire at U14, U15, U16 and U18 level which was a great experience, but quite demanding having to travel to various counties on a school night! 

Southampton Saints WFC was a great experience, and that’s when I was playing more in defence, but occasionally would play midfield as I was heading into Women’s Senior Football. One lowlight of my career was that we had travelled up to Middlesborough to play their Women’s team in the FA Cup, and I was sent off for dissent. We ended up losing the match, so it was not only a hard lesson, it made me became a stronger player, and was also a very long journey home! We had such a strong team and had some great battles in the local derby against Portsmouth Ladies! I was here for 4 seasons playing the highest level I’ve played at, which was Tier 3.

I went to the University of Portsmouth in 2005 to study Sports Development where I then joined the Sunday team of the same name. I found I couldn’t study 100% and train/travel for Sunday’s games, so something had to give unfortunately and this too coincided with Southampton FC being relegated from the Premier League, so the Women’s team had to go sadly due to funding.

Our University’ Wednesday team were very successful and we won the BUSA league title, where I captained the team to success. We even won ‘Tour’ in 2008 in Rimini, Italy, playing against other Universities. 

The Sunday team was a very talented group of players, again as captain, we achieved league title success as well as Cup success in the PDFA Cup when we beat Havant & Waterlooville Ladies in the Cup Final AET in 2008. For the University, I was playing more in defence, but occasionally played in midfield. 

I continued to play for them until I went travelling in 2011 where I didn’t play for a season. 

On my return, I then rejoined the Uni for one season before I chose to join Gosport Borough LFC for 3 seasons in 2014-15. I was chosen as Captain, probably due to my experience and we went on to get 3 successive league titles and promotions, as well as 2 PDFA Cup successes, one against Portsmouth FC Women, the other Gosport Falcons. I was very much a defender for Borough, but managed to be the club’s top goal scorer (15) in my final season with them! 

Up until University and before I could drive, a massive mention needs to go to my Mum who has been there from the start, taking me to training, matches up and down the country in all weathers and being that massive support. I would not have been able to do what I have if it wasn’t for her dedication, commitment,  love and support along the way. She always came to watch me whenever she could and I will always remember that. My Dad came to some games, but has never really liked football, but was always supportive to me, just more so from home!

Moneyfields vs Winchester Flyers. Photo: @DNP Sports Photography

Since signing for Moneyfields the club has gained promotion by winning their respective league. You were sitting in a great position to continue that trend until The Football Association took the decision to void last season. How do you personally feel about the decision?
Yes, I joined Moneyfields FC Women for 2017-18, then known as Moneyfields Ladies FC. 

Since I joined Moneyfields, we have had League promotion and PDFA Cup success in 17-18 when we beat Portsmouth Women in the Final. In the 18-19 season, we were promoted as Champions which was an amazing feeling and then narrowly lost to AFC Bournemouth in the League Cup Final.

Last season, we were storming it with 10 wins from 10, including victories against the top 4 teams, however Covid-19 stopped play in March, which was frustrating but totally understandable with the global pandemic. The league then made a decision to null and void the league which was hugely frustrating as we thought a points per game would have been a fair and true representation of the final league table, but it wasn’t to be.

Moneyfields vs Winchester Flyers. Photo: DNP Sports Photography

Prior to lockdown how do you feel the season was going for you personally?
The season was going very well until Lockdown happened, as mentioned 10 out of 10 wins, and we had had a great FA Cup run and were still in the PDFA Cup where we were due to play Portsmouth FC Women. Personally, I felt in great shape and was getting on the scoresheet regularly and we really were in pole position as a team to gain promotion but it was just totally out our hands unfortunately. It was frustrating for me personally as being 34, I am unsure how many more seasons I have left, but under the circumstances, totally understandable.

You were named captain of the club. What does that role mean to you and what do you think that you bring to the role? This could be a moment to mention you also getting involved in the club’s social media.  

It means so much to me, more so that the boss sees me as that leader of the club. I have been lucky enough to be captain at most of my previous clubs, so I have a wealth of experience within the role. I like to be that player who can lead by example both on and off the pitch, and that is hopefully what I do. I am very vocal on the pitch and also can be that go to captain that my teammates can come to with any issues they have as I believe that helps the team moving forward and become better. 

I have also taken on the social media for the club and was behind the name change to Moneyfields FC Women as I wanted us to be in line with major clubs and for me, it’s more of a current term. 

It certainly keeps me busy, but I feel it is an important role to spread news about the club and what we are doing to not just the local community, but nationally too. Women’s Football is going from strength to strength and I wish I had the amazing opportunities youngsters have today to really make it to the top, as it now can be a career and not just a hobby. 

It also is great for our fans, and youth teams to follow us and see how we get on week in week out. I hope this boosts the interest of the local club and attracts more players to a great club.

What influence has Moneyfields boss, Karl Watson, had on your game?
Before I joined Moneyfields, I had heard of Karl, and always heard him on the sidelines if ever I would play against his teams because you can’t not hear him! 

He approached me as he knew I was looking for a new club and challenge. He set out his 3-4 year vision to me and for me, it sounded very positive and ambitious and I personally believed I still have a lot to give in Women’s Football and want to keep pushing myself and he believed I had more to give and the ability to play higher. He eats, lives and breathes Women’s Football and is such an advocate for it and wants it to grow and develop and for it to have the same if not similar opportunities than the Men, so that in itself is really great to have someone on your side to succeed, not just as a team, but personally too.

Karl Watson. Photo: Stuart Barker

The club are hugely supportive of the youth team within the club. How important for you is that there is a strong link forged between the first team and youth side?
Yes, I think this is massive and so important. The girl’s team, in particular the U15s are so talented and I have been lucky enough to watch them on a few occasions before lockdown and they play some excellent football. 

Most of the girls come and watch us too when we play at home which is brilliant, and hopefully we are inspiring them and the next generation to continue playing football as the opportunities are endless.

It’s really exciting too for the future of the whole club, with the new club development at Dover Road which has unfortunately ground to a halt, due to Covid. On completion, it will see two new 3G pitches as-well-as new changing facilities and a new clubhouse. This will house the whole club including men’s, youth teams, and our team, as-well-as serving the local community too. 

Any chance that we might see you line up with a few of these players in a few years?
Not sure about lining up next to me! I’m not getting any younger! But, some of them will definitely be fighting for places in the first team over the next few years, which is really exciting. Some of the players coming through are so talented, so the club will be very keen to keep hold of them! The future certainly is bright.

Photo: Stuart Barker

You missed the beginning of the season due to injury, how is the recovery going? I believe that you played in the last game before lockdown?
Yes, it’s been tough as I’ve had a continuous groin injury for some time but carried on and it’s something I’ve never really experienced before, as I have never had a major injury before (touch wood!). It was done during lockdown as I was doing HIIT workouts every day, and just felt something go. 

I pretty much missed pre-season and the start of this season, however, I’ve had physio sessions, and worked really hard to do rehab sessions alongside my job as a Uniformed Public Services teacher which has been pretty full-on (especially during Lockdown 2) but I like to keep busy! 

I came back to full training in September and have had a couple of games playing 45 mins each and I’ve also bagged myself 2 goals, so it’s great being back on that pitch! Just a shame Lockdown 2 has happened, but understandable with the current rise in numbers.

11)Going back to this season, what are your personal targets for the rest of the season? Thought that this would be a good opportunity to talk about the increased challenge posed by AFC Bournemouth and revenge on the FA Cup loss. 

This seasons targets personally is to stay fit and to score more goals. I love scoring goals, not only the feeling but knowing you are contributing to the team is amazing, as hopefully I’m not only scoring but stopping them the other end as a defender too!

The main team goal this season is to get promoted to the National League, which would be so exciting for everyone involved. This should have happened last season as we were so very close before games stopped!

We face tough challenges though this season with the likes of Abingdon, Wycombe Wanderers, and especially AFC Bournemouth, but we will certainly be looking to avenge the very close FA Cup match back in October! It’s a really competitive league, so wouldn’t write off a final day title decider!!