We were fortunate enough to speak to ex-England international Becky Easton, who has 44 caps to her name, while having won three league titles at club level.
There are few players in football boasting such a CV, having played for Liverpool Ladies, Everton and Doncaster Belles.
Becky revealed to the Daily Cannon how her love for football manifested, which club she supported growing up, her career high and lows, as well as naming her toughest opponents on the pitch.
She also admitted some regret with how her international career ended prematurely.
How did you get in football? What inspired you to take up the game?
“I’m the youngest of four children, two boys and two girls – a perfect number for our small garden – and we played football together from a very young age.
“My Dad was a fervent Liverpool fan, so we were raised supporting the Reds.
“I basically grew up playing football in the garden or on the street after school and at weekends, as much as we could before our mum would drag us in.
“At school, I played with the lads in the playground, but there was no girls’ team back then and I wasn’t allowed to play for the boys’ team, so school netball and rounders it was!”
Born in Merseyside, you’ve played for both Liverpool and Everton, and must be one of the only players to have crossed the divide twice. Did you support either side growing up?
“Liverpool are my team.
“I think in the Men’s game, there is a real stigma attached to signing for your local rivals, but that isn’t the case in women’s football. it certainly wasn’t back then.
“Early in my career, I was at university in Salford, and following that I had a full-time job with the NHS in Liverpool. So, my only real option was to play for teams in the North West.
“Liverpool and Everton were the best in the area at that time.”
In a glittering 20-year career, you have played for and against the best players in the Women’s game. Who was your toughest opponent?
“It’s difficult to pick only one. My top-three in no particular order would be: Mia Hamm, Kelly Smith and Birgit Prinz. I encountered them all in their prime.
“Mia Hamm was the golden girl of US Soccer. I remember playing them when they had just won the Olympics and were completing a victory tour. We couldn’t get near Hamm, and she scored a hattrick.
“We all know how great Kelly Smith was. I played with her for England and against her at club level. What I liked about Kelly was, despite her obvious skill and talent, she had that fire in her belly and worked her socks off for the team.
“She didn’t play as an individual or a luxury player like some highly skilled individuals do.
“Birgit Prinz had everything, stature, physicality, skill, speed and a brain. She burst onto the scene in the 1995 World Cup, I think she was 16 years old.
“We played Germany in the quarter final and she was running the show. I was brought off the bench with the job of trying to nullify her. I think I received a yellow card within minutes for ‘letting her know I was there’.”
If you weren’t a footballer, what would be your dream career?
“When I was younger, I went through phases of wanting to be a teacher, police officer and a lawyer. Those phases didn’t last long, I ended up being a podiatrist and a footballer!
“If I wasn’t doing what I do now, I’d like to be an architect or property developer. I love to see old buildings renovated and redesigned into something amazing. Grand Designs is one of my favourite programmes.”
You’ve achieved a lot in your career, but what moment stands out at the best?
“It’s been a long career so there are a few; Making my England debut, playing in a World Cup (Sweden 1995) and winning all of my domestic medals where highlights.
“Other teams were dominating at the time and we won them as underdogs, particularly with Everton.
“Being a Liverpool fan, winning the league with Liverpool Ladies was special, especially the way we won the second title on the last day of the season when nobody gave us a chance!”
And what moment of your career was the worst?
“Thankfully, there haven’t been too many low points. I’ve been on the losing side in quite a few cup finals, but that’s part and parcel of the game.
“A particularly disappointing day was when playing for Everton. We only needed a draw against Arsenal in the last game of the season to become League Champions.
“We lost the game 1-0 and they won the league on goal difference, on our home pitch.
“Losing my place in the England squad was also a frustrating time. I was only 27, playing the best football of my career and felt I had a lot more to give to the national team.”
You are one of the pioneers of Women’s football, but is there any regret you’ve come to the end of your career given how much it’s progressing in the modern day?
“I often ask myself this question, and the answer is probably no.
“I enjoyed every single moment of my career, have no regrets, and even the more difficult times taught me a lot of lessons.
“Apart from the special moments, like winning trophies and playing for England, maybe my most enjoyable times were the early years back in the 90’s.
“Football was fun then. We were totally amateur. We paid to play!
“There was no talk about money, wages, sponsorship deals, how many twitter followers you have. There were no egos, and everybody involved in the game was in it because they loved it.
“Having said all that, I’m pleased that the game has developed and continues to. Young girls can now aspire to be a professional footballer and make a living from the game.”
With the power of hindsight, what advice would you give to a teenage Becky Easton becoming a professional in football?
“For me, what I believe is absolutely crucial in football, sport and life, is having the correct mentality.
“I’ve witnessed players with bags of talent and potential, with the wrong attitude and mentality, and they have been lost from the game.
“Conversely, there are players with limited skill and talent, but they have the right drive, determination and work ethic, and they have had long and successful careers.
Which football club was the toughest you’ve ever played against?
“Domestically, probably Arsenal when they had that long period of domination.
“They were ahead of their time in terms of structure, player recruitment, providing players with accommodation and employment and it showed on the pitch.
“They assembled the best players in the country, and beyond, and developed that annoying habit of winning.”
Have you considered a coaching role in the future?
“I was assistant general manager at Doncaster Belles for a short period. The general manager’s role was more of an operational one, overseeing off the field activity. It didn’t involve coaching.
“I’ve done some bits and pieces of coaching but it’s not an area I’d like to pursue. I have more of an interest in the strategy and performance of an organisation as a whole, hence my reason for undertaking the Masters in Sport Directorship degree.”
Your playing career impressively went into your early 40s, something extremely rare in football. What are your secrets to such longevity?
“Yes, I was still a player in the FA WSL1 at the age of 42, which is something I’m very proud of.
“I’m not sure if there are any secrets. I count myself very fortunate that I’ve never really had a serious injury which has kept me out if the game for a long period.
“I try to look after myself as best as possible in terms of diet and fitness, but was never overly strict in those areas.
“It was probably my desire to play and love for the game that kept me going for so long.”
Did your club or country teammates ever have a nickname for you?
“No not really, I’ve never really had a nickname. When I first got into the England squad I was called ‘Baba’ for a while, as I was one of the youngest, but that was mainly just Copey (Pauline Cope).
“The England manager at that time, Ted Copeland, sometimes used to call me Becky ‘bites your legs’ Easton, although I can’t think why…..”
How do you think your opponents on the pitch would describe you as a player?
“I think I would be described as aggressive, ball winning and consistent. Probably the type of player you would rather have in your team than be facing.
“I always gave everything in every game, worked hard and tried my best to be a team player.
Toni Duggan made the move from Manchester City to Barcelona this summer. Did you ever have any offers from clubs abroad?
“No, I didn’t, it wasn’t as popular back then for players to play abroad, so the opportunity never really arose.
“I was a bit of a home bird when I was younger anyway, so probably wouldn’t have moved away even if I was given the chance.
“Saying that though, I think players these days should embrace the opportunity of playing abroad.
“It can make you a better player and person, and gives you the chance to experience different styles of football, different cultures and visit some incredible places.
You have a lot of feathers in your cap as a qualified podiatrist, boasting a Masters’ in Sports Directorship, having experience in coaching as well as a lengthy football career. Where do you see yourself in five years?
“Good question. Currently, due to personal circumstances, I find myself doing a lot of travelling and living in different countries which is great for me.
“Not only do I see some fantastic places, I get to learn about how Women’s football is run around the world.
“I think the vague future plan is to be involved in the running of a club or an organisation in a leadership capacity. I would love to be involved in building something special in sport.”
Women’s football has come on leaps and bounds since you made your debut, but what do you believe still needs improving?
“I think a mistake often made is that those in charge of the purse strings focus on the top of the pyramid to try and develop the game, that will only work in the short-term.
“I believe that we need to improve the opportunities for girls to receive quality coaching at a young age. We need to strengthen and develop the grassroots of Women’s football.
“There needs to be people in the decision making and leadership roles with a real knowledge and understanding of the Women’s game. We mustn’t try and move the game on too quickly, a slow, steady and sustainable rate is best.
“The real focus needs to be improvement of the quality. The quality of the games, the quality of the coaching, the quality of the officiating.
“Only this way will we truly attract TV and media interest, an increased fan base and improved match attendances. People want to see a great product and they will invest in it if it’s great.”
Thanks for speaking with the Daily Cannon, Becky. Wish you all the best in the future.