Interview: Sutton United’s Olivia Watson

Before Christmas, ourselves and Impetus announced joint sponsorship of Olivia Watson, a talented young midfielder with sixth tier Sutton United. Ben Gilby recently touched base with Olivia to see how she’s getting on during the difficult times we are facing at present.

“I have been doing well, just trying to keep as busy as possible. I have definitely found this lockdown harder than the previous two,” Olivia admitted.

What was particularly frustrating from a footballing perspective was the fact that just before the latest lockdown, Olivia had just established herself in the Sutton United team and scored her first-ever goal for them in an important top of the table clash with Clapham United that ended 1-1.

“It has been very hard and frustrating because I feel that I had just started to show what I was capable of and could bring to the team, when the second lockdown started and then we only played one game in between the second and third lockdown, so it has been hard to get on a good run with the stopping and starting.”

That one game between the second and third lockdown saw Olivia score her first goal for Sutton United. She takes us through the historic strike: “I was playing on the left and the ball had been moved from the left to the right quickly, ending with Gabby Howell having the ball on the right wing. I knew that if I made a run into the box, I would potentially have the chance to have a shot, which in the end I did. Gabby played a brilliant ball across goal and I managed to get my foot on it at the back post, which beat the goalkeeper and ended up in the back of the net. I was very happy and excited that I had finally scored my first goal for the first team because personally I felt that I needed to score to prove that I should be in the squad. I was also glad that it meant we had drawn the game, although I wish we could have scored another to get the win.”

Once it is safe to play football again, I am determined to continue my pre lockdown form and continue to develop and improve my game.

“With the current lockdown, I have tried to stay positive rather than being frustrated by not being able to play, and have been focused on staying fit and practising my skills. Once it is safe to play football again, I am determined to continue my pre lockdown form and continue to develop and improve my game.”

Olivia’s move to Sutton United came after spending a short period away from the game. She feels that the huge potential at the club and their stated desire to move swiftly up the leagues made it an easy decision to sign for the Gander Green Lane based club:

“When I was looking for a new club, after my year out, it was very important for me to find a team that were, professional, fun and striving to achieve promotion up the leagues. This is exactly why I choose to trial for Sutton United Women because they are all of these things! I feel that the football I had previously played at adult level was more for enjoyment and I really wanted to challenge myself and improve. I remember my first training session at the club was very intense, focused and challenging, which I really enjoyed and the clubs’ aims and ambitions where highlighted throughout the session, from there I knew that Sutton United Women was exactly where I wanted to be. In the future, I would love and aim to be playing for Sutton United Women in the FA Women’s National League and progressing to the highest level of women’s football that I can.”

Photos: Paul Loughlin

At the present time, the future of the current season is very much up in the air. The Football Association have recently circulated a survey with regards to how best to end the season – pausing it until safe to play again, points-per-game and cancellation. Olivia feels that points-per-game would be completely unfair.

“Personally, I want the season to be paused until it is safe to play again, with the season being extended into June/July but I think this option appeals to me most because I am eager to play some matches and it would be good to finish what we have started. If this weren’t to happen, I would prefer the season to be cancelled because we have only played four games out of twelve, so points-per-game doesn’t seem fair to me.”

With training and matches suspended, the players and coaches have found creative ways of staying in touch with each other. “We have been taking part in bi-weekly quizzes, which are really fun but competitive. We are split up into teams, which is good as I would be useless on my own! Originally, they were organised and run by Duncan (Muller – head of women’s football at the club) but now each team have a round and decide on the questions. Unfortunately, the team I am in are yet to win but hopefully next time we will!”

As the current lockdown continues, I wondered what Olivia has done to fill the time: “Apart from working, I have been going on a lot of lockdown walks and cooking, as I am trying to eat healthier and try new things. I have also been watching a lot of sport on TV too. I love watching the women’s game on telly, especially as it wasn’t really televised when I was younger, I really enjoy watching it now. I don’t back a team but I do love watching both Manchester United and Chelsea. I have always been into sport and enjoy watching most other sports on the TV, particularly netball and rugby.”

In terms of fitness, I have been making sure I either do two short runs or one long run a week and I try to work out if I can find the motivation but I am not very good at home workouts – I really miss the gym. I have also recently started doing 1:1 football sessions, to keep up my skills and fitness. Once football returns, I aim to get back to match fitness as quickly as possible, solidify my place in the first team and if matches are resumed this season I am determined to add more goals to my one!”