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EXCLUSIVE: Stephanie Roche Interview (Part One)

Roker Report were invited to speak to striker Stephanie Roche at the SoL for an exclusive interview. Interested in what she had to say about 'That Goal', the Sunderland Ladies successful season and her time on Wearside so far? Read on...

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

RR: Presumably you started playing football as a kid on the streets of Dublin, can you describe what that was like for you?  Is there one moment that sticks out from that time?

I wouldn't say one moment; I think I always used to play with my friends who were mainly boys.   None of the girls were playing football they were always playing something else.  I grew up with a lot of friends who were boys and we used to be out on the streets every day, if we weren't on the roads we'd be on the grass with our boots.  I've got some really great memories from back then.  A few of my friends have gone on to play as well, Alan Judge plays for Brentford, he was with Blackburn as well so a few of us have gone on to play which is nice.

RR: Is there one moment that sticks out when you thought, do you know what I'm really good at this compared to everyone else who your were playing with at the time?

I think it was other people that were saying that to me more so.  When I played with the lads I didn't think much of it, I was just playing football and enjoying it but when my friend's mam said to me,  ‘do you want to join a football team' and she put me in touch with her son's manager. I went up and joined their team so it wasn't until then, when I started playing in a team, that I thought I could play football.  I suppose when I started playing for a girls team I thought I could maybe play for Ireland then so I think it took me a while to realise I was actually good at football, I'd say around 14 or 15.

RR: How did the lads you played a game with react to you being so good, were they ok with you?

I think they just saw me as one of the lads to be honest with you.  I played with them for so long.  It would be me knocking on their door or them knocking on my door saying are you coming out for a game of football.  It was never, ‘she's a girl so don't let her play'.  I've been asked that question before about you know, sexism you know, but to be honest I've never really encountered that.  All my friends back home treated me equally and wanted me to play and wanted to pick me first for their team! Haha.

RR: Did you have to make any sacrifices when you were younger in order to train and practice?  You hear a lot about young athletes giving up free time, being with with friends etc, was it like that for you?

Yeah a lot of the time, even now my friends are saying, Jesus we can't get a hold of you because of football!  They have to book to see me months in advance.  I'm going home next weekend but I'm going to be doing stuff while I'm at home, I'm watching the men's Ireland match, which is taking a lot of my time.  My friends know that football is my first kind of priority. It's something that I've always loved and wanted to do. I've never thought of it as giving up stuff to do.

One of the things that sticks out, I booked a holiday with my friend and her mam, it was after 6th year but there was a football tournament on one of the weekends while I was due to be away.  I'd paid in full, it was €600 and I had to cancel the holiday and I only got €100 back!  My dad was paying for it though! Haha, So yeah that was probably one of the biggest things I had to give up, a holiday with my friends.  I played in that tournament though and got into the Irish U19's team a few weeks later so it played into my favour at the same time.

RR: You must be bored of it by now but lets talk about ‘that goal'.  You were a finalist in the Puskas Award for best goal at the Ballon d'Or.  Can you remember what was going through your head when you received the ball? Did you have that finish in mind or was it just instinct?

Wonder Goal Video

I think it happened so fast that it was kind of instinct.  I've said before that the girl who was marking me had been man marking me all day.  She was trying to kick me and was really tight on me all game so I knew when the ball came to me that she was going to be tight to me.  Obviously I wasn't thinking I'm going to flick this over her head but when it came to me I instinctively knew where she was.  My first touch was just to try and get it under control and the rest just happened purely on instinct.  Luckily enough I kept the volley down and it ended up going in the goal.  I think I've hit a few that went over the bar and went wide so it was nice to get that one on target. Haha.

RR: We've seen the goal on YouTube and you can see everyone is in awe on the side lines what happened after the clip ends?

I think my manager at the time said she had an out of body experience when it went in the back of the net!

RR: We wondered whether there was a Bob Stokoe moment and she ran on the pitch!

Haha, yeah I think after the goal went on we just continued to play the game and I scored another goal, we continued to dominate the game which was the main thing.  It wasn't until after the match that one of the girls said to me they were video recording that game, they've got that goal on video.  I wasn't thinking about it to be honest but we went in after the game, had some food and the away manager called me over and said, have a look at this. It wasn't until I saw it on video that I thought, yeah that's all right isn't it!

RR: You must have thought you had a good chance to win?  If it hadn't been a world cup year, it surely would have won it.

To be fair to James Rodriqguez I think he should have won player of the tournament and he didn't get it so I think it was only fair that he got something out of it! Haha.  I think when I scored the goal I never expected it to get where it did.  Even when it got into the top 10 I wasn't thinking, I'm going to win this, I was thinking it would be great to go to the Ballon d'Or and meet all these players and be part of it. So when I got into the top three it was just unbelievable and then I think just the support I received particularly in Ireland and England was unbelievable.  To think that I had a chance of winning it was thanks to everyone that got behind it.  It was one of them feel good stories.  Everyone was happy to hopefully see me do well. It was a great experience for me and something I'll always remember.

RR: You've played in France and the US and now England, what differences have you noticed between the leagues?

I think France and England are quite similar.  They both have technically good footballers and I think they try and play the same way.  In America it was a different style of play.  You'll see that they're more, I suppose, physical and athletic but maybe wouldn't be as technical as a lot of the English players are.  I think in France it's very similar to this league in style of play and the teams want to get the ball on the ground and play whereas in America you can see every one of the players are all built like athletes. They're athletes more than footballers, that's the main difference.  Everywhere I played I enjoyed it and I'm happy I learned new things from the different leagues.

RR: Your move to Houston ended abruptly over what seemed a very clinical business decision by the club.  Can you tell us a little about that and describe what it felt like immediately after being told the news?

It was a shock to me. I'd only spoke to the manager a short time before.  We played for Ireland against USA and Haiti and the week before I went away I spoke to him.  I'd only played a couple of minutes here and there and so I asked what did I have to do to get in the team and he told me that I'm doing well, to keep doing what I'm doing.  He just wanted to give me time to settle and he knew it was a different kind of league to what I was used to playing in.

I understood from a footballing point of view that he had to play the players that had experience of playing in the league so I thought, all right, grand.  He told me you're one of our best finishers.  We want to keep you here; we want to see you play.  So that kind of gave me great confidence.  I went away to the Irish game and came back.  I think he was under pressure as well because we were leaking goals and we needed defenders.  There are only so many international spots.  We had to get rid of an international player and we had a lot of forwards so I fell into the boat of both categories, if that makes sense.  It was a horrible thing.

I went into a meeting, it was just like you sitting there and he was, ‘look we're going to have to let you go, we're signing two international defenders and we need the spots for them.'  I just said ‘ok', there was nothing I could say, I knew the decision was made.  Nothing I said in that interview was going to change their minds so I just kind of shook their hands and wished them the best for the rest of the season.  I've said a few times that I don't hold any grudges and overall it's not a nice feeling but it happens to other players.  I'm not the only player this has happened to.  It's a business over there; they're not sensitive about other people.  They have to do what they have to do for the team and for their business so it was something where I was happy they gave me the opportunity in the first place to go out there and experience it but obviously I was disappointed it was cut short.

Part two coming soon.

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