Interview: Sutton United’s Olivia Watson

Since 71 are hugely excited to announce that, in partnership with Impetus Women’s Football Site, we will jointly be sponsoring Sutton United’s Olivia Watson for the 2020/21 season.

Olivia is a 22-year-old attacking midfielder, brought up in Epsom, Surrey, who has been playing football since she was 10-years-old. She broke into Sutton United’s first team a few weeks before the second lockdown and has been putting in a string of impressive performances ever since.

Sutton United are currently playing in the sixth tier London & South-East Women’s Football League Division One North and Olivia is part of a hugely talented young squad with an excellent group of coaches behind them who have realistic ambitions to be playing in the FA Women’s National League in the very near future.

Speaking about her sponsorship by Impetus and Since ’71, Olivia said: “I was initially very surprised, as although I know about sponsorship in the women’s game, it is something I have never really contemplated before. I am very happy and excited to receive sponsorship because it has validated my abilities and financially has given me the opportunity to explore other ways to improve and develop my game, for which I am extremely grateful.”

Photos: Paul Loughlin

Off the pitch, Olivia has just graduated from King’s College, London where she studied Psychology and now works in business administration in the charity sector.

Olivia told us how her footballing journey began: “I started playing at school with the boys’ team. From there I joined, Beecholme Belles Girls FC when I was ten, thanks to my coach at the time Jim Hobern, who saw me at a school tournament and encouraged me and supported me to play for the club. He had a huge influence on me, as thanks to his coaching and mentoring, I have developed the skills and abilities I have now. When I was 17, our team at Beecholme folded as most of the girls went off to university. From there, I went to Kingstonian Ladies, who had just achieved promotion into the Greater London Women’s Football League, where I played for three years until the women’s team unfortunately folded. I then took a year out to focus on my final year of university. Now, thanks to my friend Sophia Demetriou, who loves the club, and people and who encouraged me to trial, I am now at Sutton United Women.”

Photo: Paul Loughlin

We asked Olivia a bit more about life at Sutton United, a club who have come a long way in a short space of time: “Sutton United is a great team to be a part of and play for. As soon as I joined, I was made to feel welcome and part of the team by all.  I started playing with the U21s, who are a talented group of footballers and are all very motivated and dedicated to win the league this season, which they definitely will!”

“Recently, I have started playing with the first team, who are all exceptional footballers that are supportive and positive teammates. The past few weeks the morale of the team has been high, which has been seen with recent results and the quality of the football that we have played. The technical and high-intensity football played by both teams at Sutton United Women has been a challenge for me as it is a step up from the football I have played before but I’m really enjoying it.”

“The club has big ambitions this season to win the league, as well as achieve cup success, to follow on from their very successful season last year. Duncan Muller, who has done a huge amount for the women and girls’ side at Sutton, is dedicated to making the club even more of a success than it already is. Along with, Matt, Dave, James, Lydia, Courtney, Nathan and Pedro, who are all very hard-working, committed, fun but fair coaches. Together, the coaching team, the ambitions and goals for success this season and the highly motivated players, have created a driven, professional, and community-based environment at the club, which I am very excited to be a part off.”

Sutton United are only just playing again after the second lockdown. We asked Olivia how she’s found this difficult period: “Off the pitch, the restrictions have been hard but luckily, I am still able to go to work and still being able to exercise has really helped. On the pitch, the coronavirus restrictions have been odd, especially in June and July when we could only train in groups of six with no contact. However, I was just grateful to be able to play and be with my teammates. The new lockdown restrictions just announced are very frustrating as we have been doing very well recently, playing good quality football, which would have been great to continue. However, hopefully, we will be able to resume soon after lockdown and continue our form.”

Sport is full of challenges, and Olivia identifies one particular moment in her career that she found the hardest: “The biggest challenge I have faced as a footballer was when I injured my knee during a game against Crystal Palace Ladies when I was younger. I found that not playing was more difficult to come to terms with than the injury itself. It took me a while to recover from but overcoming this and getting back onto the pitch was a great feeling. Although, initially it mentally affected my play as I was more cautious and fearful of reinjuring myself.”

Photo: Paul Loughlin

In terms of her own footballing hero, Olivia identified one particular player: “Rachel Yankey. She was the first female footballer I ever saw play when my team at Beecholme Belles were ball girls for Arsenal. Watching her athleticism and skill on the wing is something that has always stuck with me.”

We concluded by asking Olivia what her aims for her footballing career were and where she saw herself in five years’ time: “I want to play at the highest level that I personally can. Five years is a long time from now, but I hope to still be enjoying playing and maybe still be at Sutton United Women, who will have progressed up through the leagues.”

Olivia will be providing us with updates throughout the season as to how things are going for her and Sutton United and we are hugely excited to see her progress throughout this campaign.

We recently carried out with club founder and head of women’s and girl’s football, Duncan Muller here.