Interview: Sheffield United’s Ellie Wilson

I recently caught up with Sheffield United‘s Ellie Wilson about her time at London Bees, what it was like to be able to represent England at youth levels and how she found the 2019/20 season.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Reading, born in Windsor, and have lived in the area my whole life pretty much so I naturally support Reading FC. However I’m also a Wolves fans that runs quite strongly in the family as well. I don’t really have a choice on that one! Football-wise, I started playing at Reading until the age of 16 when I made a break into the first team, from there, I went to Bristol City for a few seasons until moving to London Bees and now of course I have made the move to Sheffield United.

Predominantly, I play full back (right-footed) but have played in more advanced positions as well as centre back on occasions, so a bit of a mixture! As a player, I like to think I’m quite attacking minded and physical. I love going forward and having the ball at my feet so any chance to play out or get creative, I love all that!

Could you tell us about how you got into football?
So I was scouted at an after-school multi-sports club by one of Reading’s Community coaches and from there I trialled for about four years before I got into the academy. In the meantime, I joined a local team that was affiliated with Reading and the academy, so that’s pretty much where it started for me. I hadn’t even considered playing football at that point so it came about quite randomly but from the second I was introduced to the idea, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Who was your footballing inspiration growing up?
I enjoyed watching Michael Owen play when I was first getting into football. Seeing him scoring loads of goals for England was something that stuck with me at the time. The first shirt I ever owned ended up being the 05/06 England shirt, Owen 10.

Photo: @elliej_wilson_

How did you find lockdown and not being able to be with the team?
It’s been weird not having training to go to, or even able to kick a ball with someone other than yourself! While it was nice to have my evenings free, I have missed being with the team and playing. There is only so much you can do on your own so I’m glad we can finally go back now!

What did you do to keep yourself busy and entertained in lockdown?
Keeping fit and keeping on top of gym and conditioning definitely took up a chunk of the day so that kept me busy to an extent. But aside from that, just trying to learn new things or go on courses to help keep me busy, for example, I’ve been trying to learn French and build on that since I left school. I started reading some books, going on more walks, bike rides, those kinds of things. I’ve enjoyed having the time at home to chill out as well and be with the family.

How have you been settling in at Sheffield United, on and off the pitch?
I’m loving it at Sheffield United so far. From the minute I came in, I’ve been made to feel welcome by all the players and staff which is great. As a group, we’ve set high targets and ambitions for ourselves this season which is exciting but its great to be in an environment where we’re all on the same page with that and that we’ll all give 100% for each other. I feel we’re strengthening on and off the pitch every week so I’m excited to be here and see what this team can do!

You represented England at Under 19, 20 and 23 level, what was that experience like?
In terms of commuting in the different age groups, it’s always special to pull on the shirt regardless, be it training or competition. It’s great to go away with the squad and be with other top players. You can gain a lot of valuable experience particularly as you move through the age groups. Naturally it’s a very competitive and full-on environment, which is great, so I think I’ve just tried to learn as much as I can and give my all whenever I’ve been selected so that the team does well.

Photo: @elliej_wilson_

What was it like to be able to put on an England shirt and play for your country?
To be able to represent England is a true honour. It’s something that I had always dreamt of as a kid growing up, so when I got that first call-up, that was a big moment for me. Being selected is always an achievement in itself, but once you get there, the focus is to win, to compete and be successful for your country. Definitely something I’ll always take pride in and strive to keep playing at the highest level that I can internationally.

You were at London Bees since 2018, over the years how has the team developed?
I think the team has progressed season to season for sure. Although the league finished prematurely, we achieved our highest ever finish for the club this season which shows the progress everyone has made. I think Lee made a big difference to the team since he came in last season and there is definitely a lot that can be built on going into next season.

Photo: @elliej_wilson_

How did you find the 2019/20 season?
I was gutted that the season came to an end before it was meant to because I think the team was flying and felt like we would have had a strong finish. Also on a personal note I was really enjoying playing. I had a few games playing higher up on the pitch and managed to get on the score sheet in that time so I was gutted that we finished early. Overall though it was an enjoyable season and many foundations will have been set in place for a successful 2020/21 season for sure!

What’s Megan Alexander been like as a captain?
Meg Alex is great! I played with Meg at Bristol a few seasons back so it was nice to be reunited when she joined Bees last year. She’s a bubbly, positive character and I think she does a great job at getting everyone switched on and motivated on game days!

How much of an impact do the fans have when you’re playing?
Massive. It’s always nice having the support from the fans, it really does make a difference and motivates everyone that extra bit during games. There were a few games at home at The Hive last season where we could really feel the impact when we were playing, particularly our last-minute equaliser against Charlton. Having the crowd support us really spurred us n to get that goal and then when it went in all the fans, players, staff we were all so buzzing which was a great feeling.

How do you prepare for games?
I’m a pretty chilled person, I like to have everything ready to go the night before so that I can just chill in the morning. Music is a must as well. I’ll have my headphones in quite a bit, listening to whatever I’m in the mood for.

Then as for superstitions, I don’t really have any, more just routine. For example, I like to put my right sock, shin pad, boot, etc on before my left. I’ll also (this sounds weird and I get ripped for it by the team) brush my teeth before going out to warm up on game day – I don’t think that’s weird if you’ve had a pre-match meal or snack, but apparently it is.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I think probably injuries. I had one season where I seemed to get one knock and then another which at the time was difficult to deal with. It’s hard because you become out of your usual routine, and feel like you’re not involved with the team as much so that was definitely challenging. I didn’t get to play or even train anywhere near as much as I’d have liked but nevertheless it’s something to learn from and every athlete will experience it at some point.

What’s been your favourite moment so far in your career?
I think I would have to say promotion for Bristol in 2016. That whole season was unbelievable and so enjoyable. We had such a tight group of players off the pitch and that showed in our performances. The game abasing Everton away hat sealed promotion for us was one of the biggest games I had played in and anyone who watched it will know how eventful and how much of a battle it was. Conceding a pen about 96′ mins when we were winning 3-2 and it being saved… it was just crazy but definitely a favourite memory of mine.

Photo: @elliej_wilson_

After a loss how do you pick yourself back up and focus on the next game?
The evening after a loss it’s all pretty fresh so I tend to just chill out, take care of recovery and probably go over some of the game in my head but I like to watch it back as soon as possible. I think the sooner you can evaluate the performance and establish how you’re going to correct it, individually and as a team, the sooner you can move on and focus on the next one. It’s important to learn from it and move on.

Ahead of next season what’s your belief in the team? How far do you think you guys can go?
Yeah, I think this will be a really good season for the Bees! Out of the two seasons that I have been here, I think you can see the progress the team has been making. Particularly results wise. Despite the season concluding prematurely this year, we managed to achieve the clubs highest ever finish in the league which is credit to hard work. everyone has been putting in. This season I expect it will be just as competitive and we’ll be striving to build on what we did already for sure.

What’s it like to be able to be back out playing?
Unreal. It’s so good to finally have a ball back at my feet and be training with the team again! I think everyone is literally all counting down until the competitive season starts again, but it’s so good to be back.