Photographers, olivia & alison met up with Sue Smith at her hotel, before she went to TV land to commentate on the London 2012 Olympic Women’s Football Final.
As ever, we She Kickers are a politely nosey bunch and so olivia & alison obliged with some cool questions…
SK: Who were your ‘stand-out’ players in the Olympics?
SS: Iffy [Ifeoma Dieke] (right), was without a doubt one of the stand-out players for me, she was so calm and composed on the ball. When she got injured we all felt for her because she literally just had to go home the next day, it was one of the Olympic rules. It must have been so hard for her to just have to go and not at least stay with the team and be part of the experience, even if she couldn’t play.
Steph [Houghton] (left) was our top goal scorer, not bad for a left back. She was always first to the ball, if there was corner, she wanted to get to get the ball and her passing was perfect. Steph will be the first to say that sometimes her passing isn’t always perfect but again she was really composed on the ball and defended really well. You got the feeling with Steph, that because she has missed out on other major tournaments due to injury, that she went onto the pitch thinking ‘this is my time’. It felt like this was her moment and that she was determined to make a name for herself and she did. I’m really pleased for her.
I think she went from 3,000 twitter followers to 20,000 over night and she was a bit shocked by that but it just shows what the Olympics has done to raise the awareness of the players and of women’s football, which is fantastic for everyone in the game.
Eniola [Aluko] (below) was also one of our best players, she had a superb tournament, making a real impact, made things happen, going forward she was very creative. She played with a sense of ‘no fear’, she may have felt she had a point to prove, well she certainly made her mark, she gave a great account of herself.
SK: How did it feel watching Team GB kick off the whole of the Olympic games? SS: It was amazing for players like myself and Faye [White] who have been playing from the age of 4 and 5 and have had a few battles along the way just to play football, to actually see the girls walk out onto the pitch that first night of the Olympics was fantastic. It made all of the hard work and the struggles worth it. I just wish I had been 10 years younger so I could have walked out with them! It was a very special moment, personally, and for the whole of the women’s game. It made people stand up and take notice, which is a great thing.
SK: What was it like for you and Faye watching Team GB lose to Canada?
SS: Faye and I just had our heads in our hands, we were all just like…’No…what’s happened?’ We couldn’t believe it. When you beat a top team like Brazil, then Canada should be easy, but that was not the case. We underestimated Canada, I think we all did. We were just so gutted for the girls, because they worked so hard and kept going until the final whistle, but it just wasn’t to be that night. 40 yard passes that in the Brazil match just landed at people’s feet, just weren’t perfect that night, we just weren’t first to the ball and Canada showed they are a top, top, team with some outstanding players. Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi were unbelievable that night.
It was heartbreaking seeing the girls afterwards. Steph was crying, Kaz Carney was devastated, you could see the red eyes. Jacqui Oatley was interviewing some of them soon after and said some of the players just couldn’t speak at that point, they were just too upset. That’s sport - you can be on a winning streak one night and the next it’s all over - it’s the highs and lows. It can be very cruel.
And just to think, it could have all been so different. Eniola Aluko had a 100% certain penalty not given. It could have totally changed the game.
SK: How was it commentating on this great sporting event rather than actually playing in it?
SS: To be honest, it was a mixture of real pride but also a bit of disappointment. I think Faye felt the same. You feel so proud of the team and what they have achieved but when you are also a player and have been for a long time, part of you just wants to get out there and be on the pitch playing.
But I have loved doing the TV work and I felt very proud to be part of the whole Olympic Movement. Everyone was talking about the fact that a big part of the games was to do with inspiring a nation and a future generation and that makes me feel really proud to have been a part of that.
SK: How is your recovery going after the ACL injury?
SS: I’m jogging 20 minutes, which feels great. I was up at Donny the other day just jogging round our pitch, which felt really good. I am building back my strength and fitness slowly but I’m doing really well and determined to get back to the top of my game and be in the mix for England, going forward.
SK: Did you know it was a serious injury when it happened?
SS: I knew straight away because it felt like I had dislocated it. The really awful thing was that it was the first game of the season with Doncaster, I was devastated and felt so terrible about it. But John the manager is just so lovely and came and gave me a huge hug and just said: ‘I’m just totally gutted for you.’ Then he said: ‘ I have been trying to get you for 3 seasons, and then I finally get you and you go and do your knee in the first game!’ I still feel terrible about it, but what can you do? I will be back for next season and I will make it up to John and the club!
SK: How did the injury affect you?
SS: I was just so gutted as I knew the Olympics was out of reach and the season at Donny was just beginning. It was hard, I took it badly. I threw away my boots and my shin pads and I thought I don’t want to play no.8 anymore. My mum, was like: ‘You have played number 8 all your life, it’s not that, it’s just one of those things.’ But I still threw the boots and shin pads away, as I’m quite superstitious.
I told myself that was it, game over, career over. Then a short while after it happened I saw an article saying ‘Sue Smith Serious Injury Ends Career’. As soon as I saw that headline, I thought right, I’m not finishing it here, I am going to fight my way back. It was good, it pulled me round and got me motivated. I’m only 32. Look at USA’s Christine Ramone - she is 37 and is the quickest player on the whole team - which is pretty amazing.
I was lucky I had a fantastic physio - one of the best - I had the same physio as Jessica Ennis, which gave me confidence, as I knew then I was in very safe hands. I have recovered well and will be back next season and I can’t wait.
SK: What’s next for Sue Smith?
SS: Really looking forward to the next season with Doncaster and getting match fit. There is a lot to focus on with the FA WSL and the build up to the Euros [in 2013]. I am aiming to get to the training camp at La Manga [in January]. I need to get back on the pitch, it’s where I belong.
Neither are workable or likely at present but hypothetically, would you prefer a more strict salary cap in the FA WSL OR should centrally contracted England players (that receive salaries from The FA) be allocated more evenly around WSL1 clubs?