21 October, 2013

Gemma Bonner reflects on the week all her dreams came true!

Jaguar Academy of Sport Rising Star Gemma Bonner writes our first blog to share her journey to winning the Women’s Super League Title with Liverpool FC and playing her first Senior match for England in the FIFA World Cup Qualifier, as she counts down to the next stage in World Cup qualification this Saturday as England take on Wales.

All I have wanted to do since a very young age is play football for England and I have made the transition through the England Under 15’s, Under 17’s, Under 19’s and captaining the England Under 23 team.   All the hard work finally paid off a couple of weeks ago in Bournemouth, when I pulled on the England shirt to play in the World Cup Qualifier against Turkey.

After taking up football at the age of 7, I played for Leeds United for 10 years and from a young age had some great support and played or trained every night in different places. From the age of 15, I started strength and conditioning programme and did a session each week at the Centre of Excellence, plus we had good Nutritional advice and Sports Science support.

I had the first call up to join the senior England squad in March 2012 and travelled with the team to Croatia, but you wonder when the day will actually come and it was 18 months later when I stepped out as a very proud member of the Senior England team on the pitch. It was quite surreal and hard to take in, and the atmosphere was just brilliant!

My first call up for the Senior England squad last year came as a huge surprise; I was playing for Chelsea FC at the time and travelling down to Surrey from Leeds Met University two or three times a week to train. My usual day consisted of lectures at University from 9am until 1pm, then I would set off for training at 2pm with my Dad to the Chelsea training ground in Cobham for training in the evening, we then drove back to Leeds and I got in bed around 1am.

A week after my call up, I travelled with England to Croatia, for a qualifying game for the 2013 Euro Championships and I really enjoyed the whole experience of being in and around the full England squad. This summer I graduated from Leeds Met University, I also travelled to the Euro Championships in Sweden in July which was an amazing experience; a few days after I got home I had my graduation ceremony and was delighted to get a 2:1.

It was a very tough juggling act in my final year, but by this time I had signed a two year contract with Liverpool Ladies which helped as it involved less travelling time.  It is a great club to be part of, as the women’s squad now have the full support of the men’s team.  We have a fantastic set up, we train together more than any other club, usually four or five evening sessions a week, compared to two or three sessions when I was with Chelsea. Next season, we will train during the day and the club also have two houses in Liverpool where the players can live close to the training ground.  This has meant things changed quickly with a new professional management team and a focus to be the best, as the team had finished at the bottom of the new Women’s Super League for the last two years and needed to improve.

The introduction of the Super League has been brilliant for the Women’s game and hopefully with a greater media profile we can inspire more girls to take up the sport.  The Women’s game has changed so much and I was lucky enough to meet Rio Ferdinand, Dame Kelly Holmes and Denise Lewis at the Jaguar Academy of Sport Talent Day at the beginning of September. They shared some of their amazing experiences and what stands out is the growing exposure and awareness of our game. So much has changed in a relatively short space of time and people like Rio Ferdinand seem genuinely interested in Women’s football and he said how much the game has moved on, which is great to hear.


Gemma Bonner pictured right

To round off my perfect week, I played in the title decider for the Women’s Super League v Bristol Academy at Widnes Rugby League’s ground. There was a big crowd for a club game and the Liverpool support was really good. It was an amazing win for us, to end Arsenal’s dominance for 9 years! It was extra special after spending two years at the bottom of the league before our manager Matt Beard guided us to a brilliant title victory, and there were big celebrations that night.

As the Captain I was lucky enough or unlucky depending on how you look at it, to get the wake- up call at 5am the following morning to do a round of media interviews at BBC TV Centre in Salford on Monday, starting with BBC Breakfast to show off the trophy, followed by BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, Radio 5Live and the list went on! Despite the lack of sleep, it was a brilliant experience!

Now I’m looking forward to training hard this week with the England squad for our game v Wales on Saturday. I have learned so much about my sport already and realise there is still lots to learn. Being a part of the Jaguar Academy of Sport is really quite special, so I’m looking forward to attending the next Talent Day with Kelly Holmes Education and meeting other inspiring sports people and learning from the very best.

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