We were fortunate enough to connect with Actonians’ captain Catherine Murphy who was kind enough to answer our questions.
The 31-year-old defender has played more than 130 times for Actonians and has led the side to league and cup glory during her time with the club.
TW: Tell us about your football career, from the time you first kicked a ball until you signed for Actonians, or should we say, Old Actonians?
CM: Haha, yes – we have had a name change during my career here – at least now we are top of the table to start the year!
I started playing at school when I was a kid, and from there got scouted by my local team, which happened to be Arsenal. Over 9 years I worked my way through the youth teams to the reserves, before going to Cambridge University. We played in the Eastern Region league, so it was a good standard. Just before I finished university I had a couple of bad injuries, notably rupturing my Achilles, so I took some time out before joining my friend (and now teammate at Actonians) Claire Hollingsworth to Tring. I played a couple of years there before the team folded, and then just searched for a local club to me (I live in Ealing), and Actonians was the closest.
TW: A lot has happened during your time with Actonians, talk us your through your time at the club, and how you’ve seen it evolve, both on and off the pitch?
CM: The change even since I joined 5/6 years ago has been amazing. When I first joined we only just avoided relegation from the league below, and now we’ve established ourselves in the Women’s National League, reached the third round of the FA Cup and won the county cup for the first time ever.
Off the pitch the change has been even greater – when I first started we just scraped together two ladies teams, now we have three and girls teams right through from under 8. We used to train on a small patch of grass next to a nursery, now we are on a brand new 3G pitch and have a great home ground too.
TW: Who was your biggest footballing influence growing up?
CM: Not sure I really had many, to be honest – I guess my Dad because I used to kick the ball around the park with him.
TW: From an outsider’s perspective, Actonians appears to be a very close-knit club, what is it that makes it so special?
CM: Having played at a number of clubs, the atmosphere at Actonians is great. It attracts people from all walks of life and has a real family feel. All the girls are friends off as well as on the pitch. We’ve got a number of long-standing players who understand what the club means, and the fact we don’t have the glamorous name of some of our neighbours means we attract people who really want to play football for the right reasons.
TW: As club captain, what does that armband mean to you?
CM: It means a lot – with the strength of our squad just getting in the team is hard enough, let alone being captain. It’s nice to have the respect of your coach ad teammates, and I try to make sure I represent the club well with it on.
TW: What is your favourite moment (or match) in an Actonians’ shirt?
CM: There’s been a few but winning the county cup last year is probably up there.
TW: As a leader on the pitch, what advice would you give to younger players? And what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
CM: I would just advise them to enjoy the game and make the most of the opportunities they get.
Not sure I’ve ever been given a specific piece of great advice, although I do often need to be reminded not to go on too many adventurous runs from my own penalty box!
TW: Who would you say is an unsung hero in your team, and why?
CM: Probably Naomi G (Naomi Graham), she mops up everything in the middle and does the dirty work for the team.
TW: What are your thoughts on the ever-improving standard of women’s football in this country, and more specifically, Division One South East?
CM: I think the rate women’s football is growing is great, and with more and more girls playing the standard is only going to get higher. Our division, in particular, is extremely competitive – no-one is running away with it this year and on their day anyone can beat anyone – there are no easy games.
TW: Women’s football has experienced a historic record-breaking year, briefly sum up your thoughts on 2019, and where you’d like to see women’s football – at all levels – go from here?
CM: I’d like to see it continuing to grow, professionally it would be great to see crowds growing and for team GB to win a medal at the Olympics. Generally, at all levels I’d like to see more crowds and more people playing at all levels.
TW: You’ve experienced some big wins in recent weeks, how would you assess your season to date and what are your aims, both personally and as a club, for the remainder of the season?
CM: Our season to date has been mixed – we’ve done really well in the cups and had some great wins, but our league form has been patchy. Having said that, we are on a good run of form now and we want to continue that into the next year. Our aim is to finish as high as we can in the league and continue our good cup runs.
TW: Describe Danny Harrigan (the gaffer) in 3 words.
CM: Dedicated, knowledgeable, demanding.
TW: If you were a crisp flavour, which would it be?
CM: Ready Salted.
TW: Favourite Christmas movie?
CM: Home Alone.
TW: If you were the victim of a roast (the roastee) which squad member would you least like to be delivering it?
CM: Carla (Williams).
TW: First person you call or talk to after a game?
CM: If we lose I won’t talk to anyone, if we win I’ll talk to everyone!
TW: Any pre or post-match rituals?
CM: I always have to put my left shin pad on first.
TW: Winning the FA Cup at Wembley or winning the league?
CM: FA Cup.
TW: Do you have any non-football related talents?
CM: I used to be pretty good at badminton but sadly not any more!
TW: Your go-to karaoke song?
CM: No one wants to hear that…
TW: Do you have a footballing nickname?
TW: I would’ve bet money on Smurf!
Our thanks to Catherine, and Linda Fox for making arrangements.