Interview: Southampton Women’s EJ May

Former Portsmouth, EJ May, recently made the move to Southampton Women and we are very proud to be sponsoring her this season as her side seek to overcome local rivals, Southampton FC and gain promotion to the National League South. I recently caught up with EJ to find out a little bit more about her introduction to women’s football, the highlight of her time at her childhood club and making her debut in the Southampton Derby.

Since 71: Hi EJ, Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
EJ May: My full name is actually Emma-Jane, but I’ve been called E-J since the start of primary school by pretty much everyone apart from some of my family. I’m from a place near Fareham which is pretty much half way between Portsmouth and Southampton. On the pitch I play attacking midfield or what’s known as the “10” role. I’m currently working and studying alongside football.

Who was your biggest footballing inspiration while growing up?
My Dad has always been an inspiration of mine, we would go to the park or be kicking a ball down the hall way at home from the moment I could walk really. I’m very lucky to have the most supportive parents who have both sacrificed a lot to support me and my football.

Another early inspiration of mine was my first football coach, Dave. He first coached me when I was 4 at an after school club. He introduced me to the game, taught me the basics and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

David Beckham was a massive role model to me growing up. I remember at Christmas one year getting a Man United kit with his name on the back and I pretty much lived in it! When I was probably about 7 years old I had a DVD which showed Beckham performing skills and techniques like turns etc and I would have that on the TV whilst copying and doing the skills in the living room.

Photo: @Bilcliff Photography

Could you tell me about your experience at youth football?
I started playing when I was 4 at after-school clubs, mostly with boys and played for my first girls team when I was 9, at AFC Portsmouth and then Warsash Wasps. I then got into Hampshire Centre of Excellence and played there until I was 16. I then moved up to senior football and signed for Portsmouth. I’ve always been an attacking-minded player so tended to play either striker, left midfield or attacking midfield when growing up.

I have had plenty of highlights playing football growing up. When playing for Hampshire I played against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal and got to play at some pretty unreal training grounds. Playing for my college team (Itchen) we won the National Cup three years running, which was a pretty good achievement.

Of course there’s also low moments too. A particular low part for me was back in 2015 when playing for Portsmouth Reserves. I got injured in training, I sprained my ankle and tore the ankle ligaments and tendons. This was a very difficult time physically and mentally. I was out for a good 5-6 months and missed out on the majority of the season for both Portsmouth and college, including a national tournament event for the college team. I did however make it back in time for my first PDFA cup final, I was subbed on in the late stages and scored a penalty where we won 4-1. Lee Hurrell was actually my manager at that time at Portsmouth as well and I’ve always been grateful for the support he gave me back then to get me back from what was my worst injury and lowest experience in football.

Photo: @Bilcliff Photography

You’ve spent nearly your whole footballing career at Portsmouth, it must have been a tough decision to leave the club?
Yeah it was tough, playing for them meant the world to me, especially being a Pompey fan. The move did come as quite a surprise to me and it all happened pretty fast. It was a head vs heart decision but mostly it came down to game time, which I was not getting at Portsmouth. Southampton Women put the approach in and after I spoke to Smithy about his plans, it was a bit of a no brainer really.

I went to a training session and met the players and staff who were so welcoming straight away. With the knowledge, coaching style and ambitions of the likes of Smithy and Lee who like I’ve said has coached me previously, I felt like it was the right place for me to develop as a player. So although it all happened pretty quick, I like to think I can trust my gut feeling and it felt like the right time for me to move.

Photo: Jordan Hampton

What was your career highlight with Portsmouth?
I had some great moments with Portsmouth that will stay with me forever. But the standout moment for me has to be playing at Fratton Park and scoring a late penalty in front of the Fratton End.

Can you tell me about your debut? It must’ve been quite an experience taking part in the new look Southampton derby?
Yeah it was pretty crazy really! I’d just signed that day, just in time to be able to be part of the squad for the game. Then to come on at half time was really exciting. It was such an intense game of football from start to finish. I knew the importance of the game for the team and it definitely had that derby feeling to it, they’re always exciting games to be involved in!

Photo: Jordan Hampton

You’ve even managed to pick up your first goal of the season in your second appearance. It must feel good to get off the mark quite early on?
Yeah definitely. It was a great feeling. As an attacking player I want to be creating and scoring goals so it was great to get on the scoresheet. I’m quite a quiet person but feel like I’ve settled pretty quickly here and that’s credit to the girls and coaches who’ve been amazing since I’ve joined.

It’s been an impressive start to the season for Southampton Women. With such a new squad assembled what sort of expectations do you and the club have for the season?
Yeah there has been a lot of change for the team but they are such a great group. Personally, I aim to push on now, I’ve got a lot to prove not only to others but to myself too. I’ve got the support I need here and I’m focused and excited to get back to my best.

As a team, we aim to win every game we play and long term we aim to win the league and get promotion. That’s the end goal but we will take it a game at a time.

Are you confident that you can achieve that?
Yeah I’m definitely confident in this group. The coaching team and support staff is the best in the league by far and it’s down to us as a group to work hard, work together and put in what we learn in training into our games. The team is so talented and when we play to our identity, a good footballing team, we can tear any opposition apart. It’s a long season and like I’ve said, we will take it a game at a time.

Finally, we are very pleased to be your sponsor for the season. What does it mean for you to receive sponsorship?
It means the world to receive sponsorship, it really does. I am so grateful and as players and a club we wouldn’t be able to do what we love without sponsorship. I’d 100% encourage anyone who is thinking about sponsoring a player to get involved or ask for more information if unsure. Arrangements like paying in instalments can be organised and it is always greatly received especially being such a community based club.

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