Interview: Sutton United’s Olivia Watson

Photo: Paul Loughlin

We are so proud to collaborate with some amazing clubs and players by sponsoring them and today I catch up with one such player, Sutton United’s exciting young forward Olivia Watson, to find out more about her and to discover how the season went for her.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 
I am from Epsom, Surrey and have been playing football since I was 10 years-old playing for Beecholme Belles FC until I was 17 and then Kingstonian Ladies for 3 seasons. I currently play as a forward for Sutton United Women.

You play as a forward for Sutton United. For our readers that might not be familiar with you, could you tell us about your strengths and what you enjoy most about football?
My Strengths are probably my pace and ability in the air and I think I can see a pass too. I enjoy everything about football, the competitiveness, intensity and how every game is different. Most importantly, I think I enjoy football due to the incredible group of players and coaches that I play with. I really enjoy being a part of the team, win, lose or draw.

How did you feel going into the season after having two seasons curtailed due to the pandemic? Was there a bit of trepidation as to whether this one would be able to conclude? 
I joined Sutton at the start of the 2020/2021 season and that season was badly disrupted and disappointing, with a lot of stopping and starting and then the season not finishing. However, I do not think that there was ever any real fear that the 21/22 season would not play out to a conclusion despite the couple of Covid postponements we suffered in December. It did feel great to get a full season of football after 2 years.

What were your personal targets at the start of the season? 
My targets for the season where generally to play as much as possible, score as many goals as I could and help the team be successful. I also wanted to improve my confidence and composure on the ball, which I feel like I have done.

You didn’t play a game between Jan 30th and March 20th. How did this impact yourself and the squad? 
It felt like the longest two months ever and was frustrating for the squad, especially after we had three good wins in January and the team was confident and had some momentum. We then did not play for 7 weeks, which I think probably played, a part in the two games we then lost. I did not play in the capital cup semi-final against Clapton, so for me Dorking Wanderers, strangely consecutive games where 8 weeks apart against the same opposition. It was definitely tough to stay motivated and my match fitness dropped for sure during this period.

You have spent most of 2022 top of the league but in March you found yourself slip down to second place although with games in hand over Brentford. Were you always confident that you’d pick up the points required during those games in hand?
I think that we were always confident we would pick up the points. The league was very close this year, with all teams putting in some big performances. However, it was very much between us, Dorking Wanderers and Dulwich Hamlets, though for a time Hackney had so many games in hand that they too were in with a chance. We knew after we only took 1 point from the two games with Brentford that we had to win virtually every game to win the title, as it turned out, some other results went in our favour but I think we always felt it was possible to win every league game and secure the title.

Towards the end of the season the club parted company with manager Duncan Muller. How did this impact the squad’s pursuit of promotion? 
A managerial change can be hard but I think after 7 weeks with no matches and then 2 defeats, the team needed a lift, a fresh voice and ideas and Will has provided that, leading to the 4 straight wins that gave us the title. As a team we were never going to let it knock us off course. Duncan’s significant contribution to the growth of women’s and girls’ football at Sutton United is undoubted and I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to develop and learn in both the u23s and first team at Sutton.

The club’s 11-0 win against Clapham sealed the league title and promotion. How were the celebrations? 
They were a lot of fun. I think after all the ups and downs of the season and all the hard work, fight and dedication that all the team and coaches had put in to get through it, achieving our main goal of winning the league made It feel worth it and the celebrations reflected this.

Photos: Paul Loughlin

Do you have a personal highlight from this season with Sutton United?
Perhaps the most memorable game was the home fixture against Dorking Wanderers at the end of January, we were 1-3 down and came back to win 4-3. If we had lost this game and the rest of the season had played out as it did, it would have put greater pressure on us towards the end of the season in the chase for the title. And the game is a highlight for me because I scored two of the goals, probably my best two of the season. There were other highlights too, the club reaching the FA Cup 1st round proper for the first time and playing all our home games on the new pitch at Gander Green Lane. Then there was the 5-4 win over AFC Acorns in the Capital Cup after we were 1-4 down.

Do you have a favourite goal scored this season? This could be due to technical skill or most important.
This is a good question. The two goals I scored against Dorking at home where probably my favourite. The first goal was a great team goal, it came from Zoe in goal, down the left wing and Mika put a great cross into the box for me to header into the back of the net. The second was also one of my favourites because I very rarely score from outside the box and it brought the game back to 3-3.

We have touched on season highlights but we know that a football season is a bit of a rollercoaster, was there a season lowlight? 
There were a few, it was disappointing that we didn’t manage to score in either game against Brentford, when we lost 0-6 to Ashford, the best team we have played all season in the FA cup and the losses to Dorking and Dulwich in the league.

How/What, did you learn from this experience? 
The Dorking and Dulwich defeats reinforced what we already knew, that against the top teams in our division, we needed to be at our best to win, but also, that the game is one of very fine margins and you need a bit of luck sometimes to succeed. The defeat to Ashford showed us the level the team needs to be at to compete next season and where we need to improve, which was good to learn.

Have you begun to think about next season or is it all about a bit of rest and relaxation first?
Definitely rest and relaxation for me, it has been one of the longest seasons ever. I have struggled a lot with my calf this season, so my main priority will be to ensure that during this time I improve this, so I am fully fit going into next season.

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