Jess Carter: 'Girls can now have that dream of playing professional football'
England and Chelsea defender Jess Carter discusses how she went from not knowing professional football was an option to playing for the Lionesses
Jess Carter lived minutes from Birmingham City Women’s home ground but admits she grew up not knowing professional football could be an option for her. So the Chelsea defender appreciates more than most the importance of showcasing what can be achieved to the next generation.
Carter would regularly be chucked in goal by her brothers as a youngster before going on to play football at the Junior Woodies programme in Warwick, which was run for children aged five to eight.
She then started to play for Woodloes Juniors FC (now Warwick Juniors) at the age of seven and would remain with her grassroots team until just before her 16th birthday, when she signed for Birmingham City’s Centre of Excellence.
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It didn’t take long for Carter to showcase her talent though and in March 2014 she made her senior debut at the age of just 16, when she featured against Arsenal in a Champions League quarter-final no less.
Her performances for the Blues resulted in a maiden England call-up and PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2017, which were swiftly followed by her first Lionesses cap shortly after her 20th birthday, as a 77-minute substitute against Kazakhstan in November 2017.
Carter said: “When I was younger, Birmingham City were my closest team and I didn’t really know much about them and they played literally five minutes down the road from me.
“I grew up probably knowing one or two female footballers so I never had a dream of playing women’s professional football because I didn’t know it could be a thing.
“So for children now, they are able to have that ambition and dream and see that it can become a reality.
“When they come to games, they can see that it can be them and it is really important that they see it is easier to access, and also realise that professional football for girls is an option.”
A move to Chelsea in the summer of 2018 saw first team opportunities harder to come by but a lot of work on the training ground and away from the pitch contributed to Carter having a dream 2021.
There were to be two more substitute appearances for England in November and a first goal for her country during the 20-0 victory over Latvia.
The only sour note to an otherwise amazing calendar year was Chelsea’s 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League final but Carter insists it has only fired her up to achieve more success.
England 20-0 Latvia | Highlights
Jess Carter scored her debut England goal during November's victory in Doncaster
Speaking before the November fixtures, Carter said: “On a personal level, I can only see the positives from 2021. Getting called back into the national team was a massive thing for me because it had been a long time. That was a huge high for me for the whole year.
“Equally I have had more game time at Chelsea this year than I have probably had in the whole three years I have been there. So in that sense it was a great year, besides the Champions League final because that did put a massive dampener on it.
“It is amazing that you get there but then we are so disappointed in how we lost that game. But that has just caused more drive in me to want to do better and has definitely given me more ammunition to want to push on and hopefully do better.”
Carter acknowledges she is not one to look too far ahead but admits this summer’s home EUROs is already giving her motivation on the training ground.
“One of my goals is to be selected for EURO 2022,” Carter said.
“But generally I take it day-by-day to do the best I can and hopefully I can perform for Chelsea and England.”
Carter will be hoping she can retain her place in the England squad for next month’s Arnold Clark Cup, when four of the world’s best teams collide on these shores.
The Lionesses will take on Canada at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on Thursday 17 February, Spain at Norwich City’s Carrow Road on Sunday 20 February and Germany at Wolves’ Molineux Stadium on Wednesday 23 February.
Tickets are available from £10 for adults and £5 for under-16s and can be purchased from here.