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EXCLUSIVE: Stephanie Roche Interview (Part Two)

Roker Report were invited to speak to striker Stephanie Roche at the SoL for an exclusive interview. Interested in what she had to say? Read on for part two...

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RR So why Sunderland?  You obviously considered lots of options once you left Houston, what attracted you to Wearside?

I think Sonia (Kulkarni) rang me a couple of days after everything that had happened and at the time. I was obviously a little bit disappointed about everything that had happened at Huston and I was kind of thinking, what am I going to do next. I was letting everything sink in.  Sonia rang me and was really nice and wanted me to come over.  It was the first club that I actually came to visit and obviously there was a few clubs that asked me to go to them for a visit but this was the first one.  I really thought it was a professional set up.  They train at the Academy where the men train and Carlton and Mel (Reay) were really nice and showed me around.  I met a couple of the girls and trained with them.  I think being here and seeing what Sunderland had to offer, they obviously did really well at the start of the season as well so that was a big factor in it as well.  I just thought it was the right move for me.  It was a friendly club and I thought it was something that I needed after disappointment with Huston.

RR In terms of Sunderland Ladies then, just missing out on a Champions League slot but a solid season for the team do you think?

I think so, we finished fourth and we surpassed everyone's expectations after just being promoted from the second division but at the same time I think all the girls will tell you the same thing that we were a little bit disappointed because, obviously when we told we were safe I think we took our foot off the pedal a little bit.  We didn't win as many games and I think that's what stopped us from getting the Champions League spot.  I think if we had kept going we might have got it but at the same time we have to be happy with fourth coming up as a newly promoted team.  For our first season we've done quite well.

RR A word on Beth Mead, she had a great season but was continually overlooked by England - did she deserve a chance?

For me, I think so.  I though definitely she'd get in it particularly when Toni Duggan was ruled out for being injured. She's done really well.  She's not only a good footballer but she's a good girl as well.  She knows what's needed to play at the highest level and she works hard so I think she does deserve her chance but at the same time she's only young so she's got plenty of time to get into the team.  I think she will be a star of the future for England.

RR Who was the toughest defender you've come up against so far in your career?

That's a good question! To be honest I can't think of anyone on the spot haha. Any international defender is a good player to play against.  For me playing in France, I came up against a few French internationals and also here in England I think obviously Steph Houghton is a great example, she's a very good player.  Laura Bassett, there's a few players who I could mention but I think, no one particularly sticks out.  Every game is a different game and it's nice to play against different players and have those experiences.

RR You mentioned him earlier, what's it like working with head coach Carlton Fairweather? How does he compare to others you've worked with?

I think he's obviously played the game, he knows what it's like to play at a high level.  He treats us with respect, which is nice to see.  He wants the best for us and he also understands the game and so if someone makes a mistake he knows they're not doing it on purpose it's just the way it goes.  He has that understanding.  I think him and Mel work really well together.  Mel has played with a couple of the girls here as well and she knows what it's like to play in women's football so I think they're a good combination and they work well with each other.

RR Can you just take us quickly through what you do as a team in respect of training during the week?

In the mornings the full timers play.  They do technical work, which is really good because I enjoy working on my technical abilities.  It's something that I love doing.  We do shooting or passing or whatever is relevant to our position and then in the evening all the team comes in and we work towards whatever game we're playing at the weekend.  All the training sessions are always fun and enjoyable so you're not coming in thinking, ‘oh here we going again'.  He shakes it up quite a bit.  As I said, him and Mel work well together.  They're a good team.

RR Not necessarily Sunderland here, just generally speaking.  How often do players go against the instructions of the coach in terms of on field tactics if they think its not working out?

I think for us, this season we haven't really experienced that.  It hasn't really happened but I think every coach trusts their players to make the right decisions.  I think Carlton trusts us so if we think something isn't happening I think he would understand if we didn't do it, he himself would have done it as a player.  Coaches have to be understanding in that regard.  If something isn't going right on the pitch it's up to the player to make the decision to put it right so I think we obviously we have in our head what the manager wants from us but if we think, ourselves as professionals, he'd understand if we do.  He understands and believes in us to make the right decision.

RR How much does a match day crowd influence a player's performance on the pitch?

A lot to be honest.  I think to be honest since I've got here, the people are so passionate about football and I knew that before I came over.  I suppose they're like the Irish in a certain way.  The Irish fans are brilliant; they go away to watch Ireland play and even when they pretty much watch them get beat they still cheer on the team.  I think the fact that we've done so well this season, it spurred the crowd on and they've been really, really good for us.  It's great, I think it's great to have a crowd that's spurring us on and wanting us to do well and it does make a difference particularly against the big teams, you have the crowd cheering us on and wanting us to beat them, it definitely does make a difference.

RR What if it's flipped the other way?

Yeah it does happen the odd time.  We played City in the Cup and I think every player would say it wasn't one of our better games.  There were a few people saying, ‘what are you doing!'.  I think in fairness to the fans I think they understand that we're not trying to do wrong.  That's the way we want it though. We want people to criticise us, we want it to be like the men, the men get grief and get stick, that's what we want (to be treated the same).  You have to be professional enough to take it though.  If the crowd comes and they're either booing you or cheering you it's still motivation.  If they're booing you, you know you're doing something wrong.  If they're cheering you, you know you're doing something right.  It's just how you use it I suppose.

RR How would the fans here compare to the fans in the States or in France?

I think in France they're the same as here to be honest with you.  They're cheering and wanting us to do well and were happy to see us do well.  I think in America, they're cheering you're on no matter what was going on to be honest with you, haha!  They were properly into it, really enthusiastic!  If you were crap they'd still cheer you on!  That's the difference between here and there.  As we do here, we'd go around and talk to the fans after the game and they'd be saying, ‘you had a great game!' and we'd be like, ‘erm no we didn't, it was crap'.  Whereas here they'd say, ‘maybe next game' or ‘bad game but don't worry about it'.  I think over here they analyse the game a little more whereas over in America it's more of a spectacle.  They're happy to be there and just see the match.  They're proper football people here and they know what they want from you.  If you don't do what they want they're not going to say that was brilliant when you know yourself it wasn't.  That'll be the main difference.

RR So it's about having that strong mentality in sports?  You can take that feedback from supporters and accept it for what it is, both positive and negative and not let that get to your game too much?

Definitely.  I've played in Ireland where all the fans are cheering you on and wanting to do well.  Over here I suppose I haven't really got into my swing just yet.  I think next season will probably see me at my best but I suppose I've been trying to work hard all year defensively and help the team out.  I haven't really got to do what I know I'm good at.  I want to give the fans something good.  I want to be good for the team.  I think that will come next year.  I think maybe the fans expected more of me when I first got here so I'm thinking, Jesus I need to get my foot down and do well.  It hasn't worked out in my favour just yet. I haven't had bad games but I haven't had my best games so I'm hoping that next year I'll be able to push on and get a good pre-season under my belt and show the fans what I actually can do.

RR You said that the fans maybe thought that you were going to settle quickly. Do you feel, in a way that goal you scored maybe has hindered you in a sense, in terms of expectation?

The goal kind of has that effect.  I suppose people who know me and have seen me play before know that I score a lot of goals and have scored a lot of goals in the past.  I have had a little bit of a goal drought since I scored that goal to be honest with you haha.  I've scored a few in the league after it but after everything that happened with the Puskas I haven't really settled with a team and playing regular football until I got here so I think it's all about me getting my head down and not having to worry about that.  With a full pre-season under my belt I think next season is when we're going to get the best of me and hopefully see me score some more goals.

RR Women's football is getting a lot more attention now where do you think it can go from here?  More televised games, bigger sponsorships?

Yeah I think it's been great.  I think England getting to the 3rd place in the World Cup was a great achievement.  That kind of has people looking at it.  Even in Ireland it's getting that attention.  Setanta have started showing our games live on TV as well.  With success comes more interest.  The more teams start doing well, the more this league gets more competitive, people are going to want to come and watch it, demanding to watching on TV I think.

RR You've definitely been a catalyst for that with the goal and the coverage you subsequently got.  That promotes the game in general doesn't it?

A lot of people have said that to me in Ireland.  I'm obviously happy to be part of it and as I said everything that happened was mental and it was something that I never thought I'd never experienced before so I was really just trying my best to promote the game and Women's football.  I'd do everything I could, every time I was asked to do an interview, people were ringing my phone from all over the world, literally about twenty times a day, it was crazy.  I thought I'm not going to get much more of an opportunity to do this and I thought I'm going to take this chance and just promote Women's football while I could.  Last year there wasn't a lot happening and after the World Cup that's improved and I hope now after this league and next season's league it might get even better.

RR How far do you think it can go?

If I was looking at it ten years ago, having BBC showing the World Cup live and Setanta showing Ireland games live on TV I think, it's something I would have thought, wow, things have gone a little bit now!  Right now I think we should be happy we're quite a bit of attention and a lot of publicity.  Hopefully it can keep just getting better and better.  I don't think it's going to be on level par with the men's for a long time.  We understand that, the men's game is powerful it's all about money and sponsorship, its been around a lot longer and is more established.  We understand that.  As I said though, women's football is on the rise and where we are now is very good and hopefully we can push on even more.

RR Stephanie thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today.

Thank you!

Click for Part one.