We chatted to Everton’s Poppy Pattinson



Poppy Pattinson may be one of England’s rising stars in football, but there isn’t a hint of uncertainty when she talks about her meteoric rise, nor is there any egotism either. She speaks with assurance and certainty when talking about her ambitions, “I want to be a winner.”

Even over Zoom, it’s clear to see that Poppy is lively and full of energy, exactly how she’s like on the pitch, when she’s bursting up and down the left flank. That energy has always been there since she was a little girl growing up in Houghton-le-Spring.

“I used to go with my dad on the sidelines, watch [my brother] train and constantly be like ‘Can I join in?’ from such a young age.” The persistence and that love she had for the game only got stronger when she joined Sunderland’s academy at the age of eight, “from there [she] could see that [she] actually had talent.”

Talent isn’t the only factor in her success, and Poppy makes it clear that “football isn’t just about natural ability, it takes a lot of hard work.”

“I always used to put up a fight no matter who was playing, no matter the result,” she recalls. She explains that her dedication showed her how much she truly loved the game, which made her realize “that football could become a career.”

Her first professional contract came from Bristol City, and at 18 years old. She found herself an integral part of a club in the FA Women's Super League, the highest league of women’s football in England: “I’ll always be grateful to Bristol for giving me that first professional contract.”

In her first season, she started every league game bar two and helped Bristol finish sixth. During her second season at the club, injuries kept Poppy sidelined for the majority of the season; nonetheless, she was able to pitch in and help Bristol avoid relegation.

Despite her love for the club, by the end of her second year, she needed a new challenge: “If I never started out at Bristol, I would not have got the exposure to be able to sign to a higher profile club in the league.”

That higher profile club was Everton, and you can see on her face how passionate Poppy is about the project on Merseyside. When the club approached her, they told her about how they “wanted to bring in new, fresh players.” Having watched them before, she knew that the club had “a particular way about their style” that matches her flair. Everton made it clear that their goal was to be challenging for and winning trophies, something that Poppy “wanted to be a part of.”

“Such a good group there. Not only the staff but the players as well. Obviously, I’ve settled well now. Willie [Kirk] has got a lot of experience behind him; I think working with him over the next couple of years will bring a lot to my game.” She’s only been at the club seven months, but Poppy feels that she’s already improved, both “tactically, and technically” which “as a young player is all you want to do.”

Everton have had a fantastic season so far, despite the fact that the WSL is the most competitive it’s ever been. The newfound competitiveness in the league is something that might daunt young players, but with “everyone wanting to play in England at the moment,” it’s only created an environment that Poppy hopes to thrive in: “Teams are wanting to challenge [Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City], and I think they have the capabilities to do it.” Other teams “getting better players” doesn’t seem to phase her at all — “It’s exciting!” 

“If I can keep pushing on a club level, in years to come, hopefully, I can get a senior call-up, which is my dream, one day.”
Poppy Pattinson

The WSL isn’t the only league that’s seen the development of women’s football grow, with the game growing across Europe and overseas as well. While Poppy merely says “you never know where you could be” at the prospect of playing club football outside of England one day, she’s “focused on getting back fit... and putting in the work for Everton.” 

She knows that if she does “well at club level with Everton,” then that betters her chance of getting “recognised internationally,” which is her “main focus at the moment.” She’s represented England for the under-21 level for the past two years, an experience that has her grinning from ear to ear at the mere mention of it. Describing the opportunities she’s had with England as “no better feeling,” she’s aware that putting on the Lionesses shirt is “what every little girl grows up wanting to do.” 

“If I can keep pushing on a club level, in years to come, hopefully, I can get a senior call-up, which is my dream, one day.” 

COVID-19 has caused some uncertainty as to when the under-21’s will be playing next, with the Poppy explaining that “no one can deny how much [the pandemic] changed day-to-day life.” Despite the gravitas of the coronavirus and the mayhem it has caused, Poppy has tried to remain optimistic: “Like all things, I was just going with the flow… Safety comes first, no matter how much anyone wants to play football.” 

As one of England’s top talents, Poppy’s social media is ever-growing. She enjoys using it, seeing it as “a good platform to get exposure for yourself, to get exposure for teams [and] to get a fan base.” She’s adamant, though, that “there needs to be action” by social media platforms against users who send athletes abuse. 

“My close friend recently has been under abuse on social media, which is deeply saddening for myself. I stuck by her through it all, both publicly and privately. I’m proud of her for speaking up, but I feel like more needs to be done. It’s not acceptable.”

Poppy ponders for a bit when thinking about the most important thing football has taught her, explaining after that she’s so learned much from the game that it’s hard to pin it down to just one thing. 

“I think just to always be yourself. Whatever environment you’re in, just always be yourself. Bring your own game to the team. Everyone brings something different. If you are yourself, you add that little bit of extra something, and when everyone comes together, that makes a great team.” 

My final question to Poppy was what she wanted to be remembered for, irrespective of her football accomplishments. 

“As a footballer, do you mean?” 

“No. I mean, what do you want to be remembered for that’s not related to your footballing career?” 

“Well, related to football, let me just say, I want to be the world’s best left-back. Make sure you put that in!” She laughs, and the initial response shows how much football truly means to her, that even when not asked about football, it’s constantly on her mind. 

No, but outside of football, I’d say I’m just a truthful, open, and honest person, who works hard no matter what I do… I’m a normal girl. Just a typical, hard worker, determined to achieve whatever I can.”

Read More