Creative Soccer Culture

Becky Spencer Talks Injuries, Comebacks & Playing At The Tottenham Stadium

Having been through the lows of long-term injury, Becky Spencer now faces the high of being involved with the Tottenham Hotspur Women’s side as they walk out at the club’s new stadium for the first time in a North London derby against bitter rivals Arsenal.

For Becky Spencer, football has been a rocky road. But she’s now fighting fit, and although she’s unlikely to start ahead of teammate Chloe Morgan this Sunday, she’s still happy to be part of this momentous occasion, as we found out when we sat down to chat with her at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

To start with, can you give us a bit of background about your journey in the game so far?

I started off at a boy’s team, so from the age of about eight, and I was dual signed, and I was playing for Arsenal. So I was at the Arsenal centre of excellence from about the age of nine, and I stayed their until the age of about 23. So I spent a large majority of my career at Arsenal. Then I moved to Birmingham, where I got a lot more game time, so I stayed there for a few years. 

After that I had quite a bad injury – I tore my PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), which meant I was out for quite a while, so I had a break from football for, it must’ve been about 11 months. Then I moved to Chelsea in that summer, which was good. I spent about two years at Chelsea, then I moved to West Ham last year, spent a year there, and now I’ve ended up at Tottenham.

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That’s a hell of a comeback after 11 months out. Does that make you more hungry when you now see places like this?

Yeah. I mean, as a footballer you kind of worry after a big injury like that about how you’re going to come back. I didn’t think I was going to come back and be able to perform at the same level that I was at before. When I was at Chelsea I got another injury, literally straight after, so in hindsight I spent maybe the best part of a year and a half out of football, which is really tough. After that I felt that it was important for me to move somewhere where I could actually play, where I would get as many minutes as possible, which is why I then moved to West Ham to get that.

Coming here, I felt good at the backend of last year and I had to move. It was an exciting challenge for me to move here. They’re a great team that obviously got promoted last year. The environment is good, and I think mentally I needed that as well, just due to the injuries and what I’d been through. Mentally I needed a change that was going to be better for me as a person, not just as a footballer. It was important.

The sheer profile of the game has changed so much over that time, particularly over the last couple of years. What are the main changes that you’ve noticed?

When I was playing before, back when I was a lot younger, the biggest crowds that you’d get would be about 200 people at a game on a Sunday. And that would just be accepted and that was just the normal thing; you’d turn up and you wouldn’t expect many people to be there. The transition that’s been made now has been amazing. The chance to play at big stadiums and stuff like that has got fans interested. The World Cup obviously got a lot more coverage, we were on TV  a lot more. I just think that it’s important that we keep pushing in the right direction with it all, just to try and get bums on seats, because it’s important for us and I think that we deserve it.

Do you feel quite invested in making sure that the advancements in the women’s game is not just a flash in the pan and that it is the future?

Yeah, we want women’s football to be here to stay and we want it to be recognised as something great, because we work hard day in, day out. The staff work hard, and not just the management, but the team behind that as well to try and create an atmosphere and to try and create a chance for people to come and enjoy women’s football. 

It’s up to us as players and it’s up to even fans, through word of mouth and stuff like that, just to get it out there so that we can keep pushing forward with it.

The environment is good, and I think mentally I needed that as well, just due to the injuries and what I’d been through"
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What do you think playing here can do for the team and for the support that comes with it as well?

It’s amazing, and hopefully we can create history with the amount that we can attract. With it being in the new stadium it’s obviously exciting for everyone. It’s the first time that we’ve played here and it’s a London derby as well, so there’s a lot at stake. It’s pride at the end of the day. It’s exciting, but we need to look at the challenge ahead and just don’t hold back once the game arrives.

You’ve played at big stadiums before, but this is something of a different occasion. How do you think you’ll feel?

Playing at Stamford Bridge and at the London stadium were both great occasions. Both of those clubs did brilliantly to promote it. But this is going to be different; it’s our territory, our home, so we have to make a stand, and hopefully we can put on a good performance for everyone that’s coming to watch so they can come back again in the future.

You’ve spoken about your injuries, but playing at this stadium must rank as a high in your career. Can you talk us through some of your proudest moments?

With being injured quite a lot and suffering and being out and watching your mates play and your teammates do well, it gets you down and it is quite difficult, but you just have to drag yourself out of that moment to then look forward to something as big as this, it’s incredible.

I’m looking forward to it, but you have to treat every game the same, big stadium or not. But there is that added bit of excitement and it’s something that we’re all looking forward to. Personally I’m really looking forward to it, and hopefully it will be a good occasion for everyone. 

Do you think that this will set the foundations for the next generation of female athletes coming through?

When I was a lot younger, my sisters played football, and they played for Watford. This was years ago, when I was about five or six, and I used to be the mascot. Obviously back then they weren’t professionals and I used to go and they used to inspire me. I’d come any thinking about how I wanted to play football, but I never saw myself being at this point. I’ve been professional for eight years or so now. I’ve loved every minute of it, but looking at them going through what they had to go through, by comparison we’re in a much more privileged position. So for younger kids coming through, there’s plenty more opportunities to get into women’s teems and girls teams. There’s a lot of inspiration and a lot for them to achieve as they grow up?

It’s the first time that we’ve played here and it’s a London derby as well, so there’s a lot at stake. It’s pride at the end of the day. It’s our territory, our home, so we have to make a stand"
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What sort of messages would you pass on to the next generation?

I think that they should always feel that things are going to get better, so they should always get their heads down and work hard and keep enjoying what they’re doing. Without that it’s hard to continue. Without enjoying football it’s difficult. So my advice would be just to enjoy themselves and take every experience in and learn from them.

What moments from this game do you think you’ll try to remember and cherish?

The warm up is a big thing for me. You have to get in there and get that part out of the way in terms of it being a big crowd. You just put it behind you, go out there, get the first experience and then put it behind you – it’s game time. I think I’ll be happiest hopefully at the end of the game if we’ve won and I can see my family in the crowd watching with my nieces and nephews, who are all below the age of ten. Hopefully we can inspire them and all the other kids that are there.

Finally, how high do you set your own personal aspirations? What do you want to achieve in the future?

Well being 28 now I’ve achieved quite a lot in the women’s game. I think I’m on my tenth FA Cup that I’ve been involved in. I’ve won leagues, I’ve won league cups, so I’ve won quite a lot in my career, but I haven’t always played in those situations, so with that, I want to be playing in the highest games possible. I’ve been in England squads before, so my main achievement is really to stay healthy this season, to get back to my best, and to see what happens going forward.

Tottenham Hotspur Women v Arsenal Women kicks off tomorrow, 17 November, at 3pm.

Daniel Jones

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