Jodie Taylor interview: Wirral-born football star on how far the women’s game has come
From Tranmere Rovers to America, Wirral-born Jodie Taylor has been dogged in pursuit of her dream to play football at the highest level.
The US-based Lioness looks back on her globetrotting career, reflecting on how far the women’s game has come, and talks up England’s chances at this summer’s World Cup.
Interview by Lawrence Saunders
Position: Striker | Team: Reign FC (Washington State) | International caps: 39 | International goals: 17
What are your first memories of playing football?
I played football with the boys at primary school. My twin sister kind of played but I didn’t know of any other girls who did.
I didn’t know women’s football was even a thing. There were no female [football] role models.
I was a big Liverpool Football Club fan and my dad took me to the games, so when I was little and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d tell them I wanted to play for Liverpool’s men’s team.
My grandma would say ‘maybe by the time you grow up they will let you play!’. Being very young and naive I was kind of hopeful that would happen.
Who were your footballing heroes growing up?
I had a few. I started following Liverpool around the time of Robbie Fowler but when I got more serious about football I loved Michael Owen – he burst onto the scene when I was entering my teens.
I loved Ian Rush as well, I think because my dad did. I just caught the end of his Liverpool career and named my pet rabbit ‘Rushie’ after him.
When did you start getting more serious about the sport?
When I was in Year Six at primary school we managed to rummage around for enough players and entered a tournament in Bidston.
I remember turning up and thinking ‘God, there are so many girls who play football!’.
Tranmere Rovers in the Community (TRIC) hosted the tournament partly to get a look at some players.
Our school did alright and afterwards I spoke with the TRIC coaches – Steve Williams, Louise Edwards and Shirley Wearing – who worked with the Tranmere youth teams and are still at the club today.
[Following the tournament] I was invited to join Tranmere and from there I worked through the age groups before playing for the senior team aged 15.
“At primary school we entered a tournament in Bidston… I remember thinking ‘God, there are so many girls who play football!’”
At the age of 18 you left Tranmere for the United States and Oregon State University on a football scholarship. What pushed you to make the move?
I just really wanted to go over and give it a go. Part of the reason for going was how higher a profile the women’s game had in the United States.
[At Tranmere] we only trained twice a week like most clubs, with the exception of Arsenal Ladies who trained three times a week, and that made my decision easier.
There was an option to go to Loughborough University, which is where a lot of the England youth players went to train during the week, but something really drew me to America.
I think it was the level of professionalism and the level of respect which the women’s game has over here as well.
Back then, in England, women’s football was not respected and [as a female footballer] you were kind of looked down upon. It wasn’t seen as a career.
I remember coming [to America] and telling people I played football. I was half waiting for a [negative] reaction, but people were buzzing over it.
Did you find it difficult at the beginning of your career to support yourself financially given the relative lack of money in the sport at that time?
Whatever option I chose, whether I went to Loughborough or America, part of it was about the education.
Ultimately I’ve always made big decisions with football as a priority, but at the back of my mind I’ve known that I need something to fall back on.
When I got back to England after college I was playing for Birmingham and I was on a quest to make the national team.
I earned virtually nothing. It was around the time the league changed to the Women’s Super League (WSL) and money was just being introduced but it wasn’t enough to live on.
My decision not to work at that time really set me up for where I am now.
Even though we only trained two/three times a week, I thought ‘I can’t have a job on top of this if I want to make the England team’.
That was a time when I was really fortunate to have my twin sister living with me. Without her and the rest of my family, I wouldn’t have been able to support myself financially and give everything to playing.
It really paid off that year when I went to play in Sweden and back to America before making the national team.
The women’s game is in such a better place now in England. It’s great to see how professional the league is now and the quality of the players coming in because of the backing from the Football Association (FA), the WSL and the men’s teams.
It’s great to see today that young players coming through don’t have to worry about the stuff I did.
We’re now seeing female football pundits appear more frequently on platforms like Sky Sports and the BBC, however some are sadly still subjected to senseless abuse purely because of their gender. Can you envisage a time when this is no longer an issue?
Yes, it will just take a bit of time until they’re accepted. You can compare it to us [female footballers] growing up. We’d get a lot of stick for playing football and it wasn’t nice, but times have changed and I don’t think that happens anymore.
With the likes of Alex Scott and Rachel Brown-Finnis we’ve got some really talented pundits who are great representatives for the women’s game and I think they’re doing a fantastic job.
Change always takes time and [female football pundits] will become more accepted.
This coming season will be the first for your club under its new guise of Reign FC, after it dropped Seattle from its name, and also the first in its new home of Tacoma. How excited are you by the move?
It’s big news and I think it’s a really positive move for the club going forward.
The owners are great people – they are so passionate and care so much about the club that any decisions they make I 100% trust them on.
[Plans for a new stadium] are a positive sign that the standard of the women’s game is continuing to increase and that the type of pitches and facilities needed to play a match are growing as well.
The SheBelieves Cup is underway in the United States and continues during March. How important is the tournament as preparation for this summer’s World Cup?
We’re so close to the World Cup now that it’s about testing yourself against the best teams in the world.
On top of that we’re taking on Japan and we’ve got them in our group in the summer.
It’s a good test for us against three teams with very different styles and everyone is really looking forward to it.
Regarding the World Cup in France, is England going there to win it?
Of course we are – there is no denying that at all.
At the last two major tournaments we’ve made it to the semi finals and not quite progressed so we know we’re capable – it’s just taking it a step further.
We finished third at the last World Cup and we’ve grown so much as a team since then.
It’s quite exciting because looking back we probably exceeded expectations getting bronze and performed as well as we possibly could but we’re at another level now – another level of belief and confidence.