As the FA Women’s National League begins it does so without one of its biggest talents, Tamsin de Bunsen. As she recovers from surgery we catch up with her as she reflects on her first twelve months with Moneyfields since signing from city rivals Portsmouth and how she will take up a coaching role while she undergoes rehabilitation.
S71: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Tam: I have played football since I could walk. I joined a local boy’s team when I was five years old and have played ever since.
Who was your biggest footballing inspiration while growing up?
My biggest inspiration has to be my family, especially my dad and brothers. Without their influence from a very young age and being brought up in a footballing family I probably wouldn’t have played football and to be honest don’t know what I would have done my whole life as it has always involved football. I love watching old clips from Thierry Henry as he is an Arsenal legend and now I love watching De Bruyne – definitely my favourite player with how he reads and plays the game.
Could you tell me about your experience with youth football?
I have played for multiple teams growing up from local boys teams and girls academies to then finishing my youth days at Reading Development. My position started as a centre midfield and then progressed into a forward role. Now I don’t mind playing either as I just want to be on the pitch helping the team out in any way I can.
I would definitely say playing in a boy’s team where I started off and then going back in u14/15 years later has definitely helped with my game in terms of physical aspect and although it was tough with the standard comments whether that was from the opposition players or the family members of the team, it made me rise to the challenge and having that desire to show them that girls can play too.
It was a very proud moment and something I never expected to be honest. Being involved in a first-team environment at Reading was always something you aim towards in making your debut so to actually achieve that once is something I will always cherish.Tamsin de Bunsen on making her WSL debut
You played under Kelly Cousins (nee Chambers), what impact did she have on your development?
Kelly gave me an opportunity which I will always be grateful for. Being around a professional environment, I learnt so much on and off the pitch and the experience I had still helps me to this day and the support I received throughout my time there has been unmatched. Unfortunately, I was always injured, I don’t remember having a solid couple of months of being involved in training due to injuries so my time at Reading was mainly with the physios and in the gym who supported me a lot through the whole rehab process.
However, without the coaching from Ads Jefferey who was my Reading Development coach at the time, I genuinely don’t think I would have been given the opportunity to be involved with the First Team. He helped develop my game to new levels and it probably is the most I’ve progressed as a player within that year under him.
Did anyone else have an impact on your development from the professional environment at Reading?
All the girls at Reading were great with me especially knowing I was injured and always in the gym and not on pitch during trainings.
However, Brooke Chaplen was someone who I learnt a lot from as a player because she was a striker which was my position and I always wanted to learn. When I would watch trainings or games I would analyse her game with her movement on and off the ball. Not only on the pitch was she a professional but she set high standards of it too with nutrition and gym work which she was spot on with everything.
Could you tell me about your experience at Portsmouth?
I signed for Pompey after the previous seasons being out for 13 months and needing game time with a women’s team. I spoke to Jay and obviously Jade Bradley who was there at the time and they sold it to me and felt it was the right club to move to. The first two seasons were hard to get going as both seasons were null and void due to covid. Then, unfortunately, I had another injury hit season in my final year so I decided it was time to move on from the club. Although there were good times at the club and special people, the knee injury took its toll and I just needed some time to try to understand and adapt to this knee problem that I had been having since February last season and needing a fresh start.
You made the move to Moneyfields last summer. What have been your initial impressions of the club?
I love the players and the staff, it’s a special club. They have made me feel so welcomed from the beginning and they have created an environment that feels like a community and family.
On the pitch, the girls fight for each other and you know they will have your back through anything. The Moneys DNA is embedded into everyone and after the club getting back to back promotions over recent years to then finishing third in their first season in the Women’s National League, it is a testament to all involved at the club and what’s to come in the future from this team.
After a bright start, your season was cut short due to injury. Has this been something that has been troubling you for a while now?
Yes, unfortunately, there seems to be a common theme here about injuries. I have been having issues with my knee since February in the last season at Pompey which turned out to be a lateral meniscus tear causing me pain. I carried on playing with it wrapped up as I was allowed and wanted to help my team to finish as high as possible and get success in cup competitions. After a couple of months break over the summer and signing for Moneys, I was still struggling with the pain and being in and out of football. I had another MRI scan which showed I had a knee cartilage defect which I needed surgery to repair.
You’ve undergone an operation to repair the knee cartilage, how is your rehab going?
Rehab has felt like it’s been going slow but it’s just been about finding the right balance with what exercises I can and cannot do. I am six months post-op and the recovery period for this surgery is twelve to eighteen months. I have been medically advised to write off this coming season and look towards the next pre-season to be back involved, providing no issues from the MRI scan at the twelve-month mark.
So it’s a long process but we are going in the right direction and a good chunk through. So it is just about trusting the process.
Your sponsors, Sarah and Janet, have followed you from Portsmouth, our local rivals. How does that show of support make you feel?
I think everyone knows how much I love these ladies. The support on and off the pitch whether I was at Pompey or now at Moneys, they have always been there through the good and bad times and I cannot thank them enough.
They’re honestly the loveliest, happiest and friendliest people I have ever met and Pompey is lucky to have them working for their club. Everyone who knows Sarah and Janet only speaks positively about them and that speaks volumes of the people they are. Absolute Legends!
How do you feel about not being able to play football at the moment? And how do important have your teammates been at making this period more manageable for you?
Honestly, it’s been hard. I think injuries are more of a psychological battle than a physical one. I’ve grown up playing football and when it’s taken away from you, it’s like you lose a bit of your identity. Football is a release in many different ways and when you don’t have that it affects you and other aspects of your life.
I distanced myself from the team for large spells after surgery and would avoid going down to watch matches which probably didn’t help with how I was feeling but it’s just a way I tried dealing with the process and understanding where I was at with everything.
Although I distanced myself, the support I still received from the girls and staff has been great and they all made me feel a part of the team. There are too many to single out but having Pinner to talk too, a teammate who has had knee problems and had surgery not so long before me, she has been brilliant given the circumstances she unfortunately is in. Having someone who understands a similar injury and experiences similar feelings has helped me out in so many ways.
While you complete your rehab your role within Moneys is changing slightly. Could you please tell us about it?
Karl and Han have given me an opportunity to become an assistant coach to stay involved in football whilst I recover from the injury. I will be more focused on the attacking unit to help provide support for the girls.
The urge to kick a ball, run and be involved in the session at the moment is challenging, however, the experience of being on the sideline and developing my knowledge of the game in a different capacity from what I am used to is exciting.
I hope to develop as a coach and learn off Han and Karl whilst also supporting the team as best as I can with on-pitch success whether that is from on the training pitch with sessions or analysis from games to improve players individually and collectively to have a successful season.
Can you see a difference around the squad compared to pre-season last year?
I think last pre-season we didn’t really have one so already I feel we are better prepared for the season ahead. The squad has come back after the break eager and ready to get going again after the success of last season. We have new additions who bring experience and more quality to the group and they all have settled in very well in the first few weeks.
The morale around the place is high and you can feel the excitement to get started from all the players and staff. We are growing each week on and off the pitch as a team so hopefully we can build up momentum and keep on progressing ready for the season to start!
What do you feel is a realistic target for the team this season?
I know it’s cliché but we are setting our sights on winning the league and gaining promotion. We know the league is going to be stronger than last season but I genuinely believe in this squad and the staff to have a successful season.
Moneyfields FC Women begin their league campaign against Southampton Women on August 20th, before hosting Torquay United in the FAWNL Cup Determining Round on August 27th at Cams Alders, Fareham.