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Former Hammer Little made to feel welcome by ‘old enemy’

by C&K Basildon Ladies midfielder Stacey Little

CONFESSION: I was so nervous before I joined C&K Basildon Ladies I even asked the manager, Steve Tilson, if the girls would mind.

Having played for West Ham, we had a really strong rivalry.  Every time I played against Basildon, I didn’t get on with them.

I was really worried how the girls would take to me, but people are different when they’re on the pitch to off it. The reason we clashed in the past is because we’re so similar. They wanted to win, I wanted to win. If you have to kick someone to do that, you do it. That’s what it was.

They’ve made me feel really welcome. Now I get on with them all and we’ve been doing really well.

As a West Ham fan, playing for the club and being captain was the icing on the cake, but I wasn’t enjoying my time any more.

I was unhappy from the start of the season, but I was trying to see it out because I’m not one to quit.

Then, everything happened and I, and a few others, left. I didn’t play for about four weeks. My love just wasn’t there for it. A few of the other girls signed for Basildon before I did. I went down to watch them play. Standing there watching, I realised how much I missed playing. I was dying to get back on the pitch.

It’s actually quite nice not to be captain, too. I can just focus on my game and not have to worry about everyone else.

When I was at primary school, I didn’t really play because we didn’t have a girls’ team. I was really the only girl who played football and I wasn’t allowed to play with the boys.

It was only during breaks and at lunchtime that I got involved. I played locally for a team and, as I got older, I went on to better things.

I was at college next to Arsenal’s academy, but even then I didn’t know much about it. That’s one thing I wish I could go back and do again. Rather than college, I would like to have tried to go through something like Arsenal’s academy.

But, back then, you didn’t really have much idea.

Now it’s a big thing.  There’s more investment and more young girls have opportunities. That’s what it’s all about.

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