Northern Ireland youth international Ella Haughey confirmed her move to National League tier three side Nottingham Forest at the end of last month. I was fortunate to have some time to catch up with the defender as Forest prepared to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Women’s National League, a match they would go on to record a crucial 2-0 win.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Saintfield a small town in Northern Ireland, I’ve grown up playing left back but it doesn’t really matter to me where I play, as long as I’m playing then I’m happy.
Who was your biggest footballing inspiration while growing up?
Growing up I loved watching Wayne Rooney. I think it was his passion and desire and goalscoring that drew me to him. Also, Ronaldo because he played for Manchester United I’m biased and he’s the goat.
My former coach Stevie Graham also has been a very big inspiration to me, he started coaching me when I was 11 and he’s been a massive part of my style of play and generally shaped me into the person I’ve become today
Could you tell me about your experience at youth football?
I originally started off at a boys team called Ballynahinch Youth FC but there was 5 girls in the team, who are some of my closest friends still now, and played with the boys until I was 15, it was tough at times with them, but it definitely has developed me with the physicality of the game.
I then moved to Lisburn Rangers Ladies FC as I wasn’t allowed to play with the boys anymore and had been there ever since and worked our way through all the NI divisions (5 promotions in 5 years) and just recently got promoted to the Premiership which was a massive achievement for the club.
I’m a massive Manchester United fan from day one I used to get all the kits for my birthday, so I have a healthy collection from every season.
You move to Nottingham Forest from Lisburn Rangers. How important was your time at Lisburn Rangers in your development?
Yeah massive, we were a very young team all around my age so a massive part of playing for us was the performance side as long as we were performing our coach said the results will take care of themselves. Our culture never changed, and I developed a lot at my time their learning on and off the pitch.
Is there one stand-out memory from your time with the club?
It’s definitely when we won the league to get promoted to the Premiership, we had been talking about this plan for 5 years and we won the league with a couple of games to go and I just remember the final whistle blow and I feel like there was just something in the air everyone just looked at each other and we realised the 5 years of talking about what we are going to do together as a team, I honestly don’t think I realised what we had actually achieved until that point, there were tears and just sheer relief I think that we finally were where we deserved.
You’ve represented your country at youth level. How did that feel and what lessons have you taken from playing at international level?
It’s my biggest honour playing for my country, just the feeling of wearing the jersey and I. always feel overcome with pride representing NI and seeing my mum and dad in the stands watching me.
I’ve had some of my greatest memories away with Northern Ireland underage playing against top countries in Europe has showed me that there always something you can be better at and it’s achievable if they can do it why can’t I?
How did you feel when you learned of interest from Nottingham Forest? Could you tell us about how the move came about?
I was moving to England for university but my main aim was to start playing over here as I want to keep learning and keep getting better and better and hopefully one day play for the Senior National team, Forest were a close team for me and as soon as I found out I could start training I was so excited, the weight of the name of the club is massive and I wanted to prove to myself that I could compete.
How did you feel about having to leave your home in Northern Ireland in order to make the move a reality?
Yeah obviously when I was younger I always said I wanted to move to England to play football and my mum wanted me to stay at home, but I knew it was the right decision for me for football, playing with the girls at Forest makes me improve every day.
I didn’t realise I would miss home, but I actually do but I feel like it’s going to be worth it, and it makes family time back at home even more important to me.
How are you settling into life in the UK?
Yeah, I think I’ve definitely settled in these last few weeks, it was hard at the start finding my bearings with university, football and just getting familiar with everything but I’ve loved it so far so hopefully it just gets better and better
Did you know every much about the Women’s National League prior to the move?
Not a lot to be completely honest but I remember when I was looking at the division of the English leagues, this sounded like a very competitive league, and I felt this was the level that is going to really change me and that I can really improve at.
You’re moving into what I believe is the most competitive division within the top of the women’s football pyramid. How is Forest approaching their title challenge?
The league is very competitive, I think all teams are going to drop points throughout the season and every game for us is like a must win but I believe we have the winning mentality and desire through the long season that we aren’t going to give up.
The manager, Carly Davies described you as “powerful, quick and direct.” Would that be a fair assessment of you and what do you feel are your strongest attributes?
I was very appreciative of the nice words she used, I feel like I’m very physical, but I just think that’s the Irish in me and obviously playing with boys and playing football with my older brother if I wasn’t physical I couldn’t compete with him.
What are your initial impressions of Carly and her approach to management?
From the short time I’ve had I’ve seen that Carly is very detailed in everything she does and works on the finer margins of the game that can give us the extra % that we need in them tough games to get us the points
What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?
My goals are obviously to get as much game time as possible and just off the older players and improve week on week to be the best version of myself for the team and hopefully we can have a successful season.