Centre-back Georgia Clifford was just awarded Oxford United Women's Supporters Player of the Year award for her composed, commanding performances during the 2019/20 season.
Clifford joined the Women's National League South outfit in August last year having recovered from an ACL injury picked up during her time with Reading FC Women. We spoke to the 21-year-old about her career so far and her life during lockdown.
What's your earliest football memory?
When I was seven, I used to watch my sister play for our local team. Sadly, I was too young to join as teams only started at under 10s back then. I used to beg my mum to let me join in but she said I was too small to play matches. Eventually, she asked the coach if it was possible for me to join in on one of the training sessions and ever since that session I have loved football.
What made you fall in love with football?
I think it’s because I love a challenge and love the feeling of winning. I am super competitive so when I attended that first session the coach saw that I had a natural talent for football and that I was able to deal with the older under 10s team.
Being tested against older kids, I just wanted to keep getting better and better. I then joined the local boys under 8s team to play games while training with the older girls. Each Saturday since then it has excited me to wake up knowing it’s game day.
What's your greatest footballing achievement so far?
Playing for Reading FC Women’s first team. I was in their WSL Development squad and my coach told me that the first team wanted me to go train with them for the week, then play in the pre-season friendly against Chelsea. I was anxious and nervous as I really wanted to impress them, but the excitement and adrenaline got me through it and I had a really good game. The first team coaches were impressed with me and then I became a full-time player with them.
What's been the toughest challenge of your career so far?
Two years ago, I did my ACL. I never liked being in the physio room and always just got on with aches and niggles. Then when I unfortunately did my ACL in a game, I was gutted. All I saw ahead for the next 12 months was the physio room.
It was a challenge mentally and physically. I had great support from the club, my family and my friends. It all helps but all I wanted to do was play. After the long months of rehab, my knee was finally strong enough to play again.
What football dreams would you like to accomplish?
After my ACL I signed for Oxford United, which was an amazing season for me and I have enjoyed playing a full season of football; however I would love to prove myself at a higher level and play in the WSL and maybe play for England one day.
What are you missing most about the game?
I miss game day. The competitive feeling right from the build up of arriving down to the final whistle. The changing room atmosphere, having banter with the girls and just socialising before the game.
What's your lockdown routine like?
Lockdown hasn’t been too bad for me; I’m spending a lot of time with my family as normally I don't see them until the evenings as I’m coaching and working all day. It is strange having so much downtime, no off season is ever this long so it's finding things to fill the days with.
I am working out every day and luckily my boyfriend plays football so we can do training sessions most days together to stay both fit and match-fit, so we are ready for when football re-starts. When I'm not training, I like to help out in the garden or around the house, I try to stay busy and have a task or goal each day so that I have a sense of achievement at the end of the day which in turn keeps me motivated.
What are you most looking forward to about playing again?
Most of all, I cannot wait for game day. I cannot wait for the rush you get while playing, that real competitive feeling. Also, to see all the girls again and get the changing room vibe back.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
Who do you support?
My dad played ice hockey so I wasn’t raised watching football so I never supported a team.
Give us your ultimate 5-a-side team
Best game you've ever seen live?
Aldershot Town v Ebbsfleet United in the play-offs, a tense game which went to extra time and penalties.
Best goal you've ever scored?
It was a left-footed half volley and went top left, being right footed I was incredibly happy with it.
Number one tip you'd give to an aspiring player
Never give up and believe in yourself, if you work hard enough you will see results. Enjoy it.
Sum up football in one word for you