A rising star in women’s football, Poppy Jones has her sights firmly set on a career on the pitch. The central midfielder talks England selection, football heroes and future goals
Not content with juggling school work and the odd hobby, sixteen-year-old Poppy Jones is having an altogether more focused teen experience than her peers. As well as playing for Birmingham City under-17s, Poppy already has an England under-19 selection in the bag, putting her goal of wearing a senior shirt within reach.
FOOTBALL WITH BOYS
Poppy’s introduction to the beautiful game was playing football with boys, when she was aged five, at her local club. Her natural talent was obvious and football quickly became more than a hobby when she was scouted by Kidderminster Harriers at the tender age of ten. Trials with Birmingham City followed two years later and now Poppy captains the under-17 Birmingham City Centre of Excellence team and is over the moon to be part of the England set up. Of the England selection Poppy says, “I found out on March 6 and I was so shocked and happy.”
SCHOOLWORK vs SPORT
Crucially, Poppy was awarded a Sports Scholarship to Bromsgrove School in 2010 where her talent was recognised and fostered, so she feels supported. Now in Year 11, with exams looming and schoolwork intensifying, how does Poppy fit everything in? “I train on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with a match on Saturday. I do my school work in any free time I get during the day and at weekends mainly. When selected for the England camp you have to use your spare time to do school work on site, so you don’t fall behind. There is help if need be.” Unbelievably, Poppy finds time to play several other sports at school – hockey, netball, athletics and cross- country.
Poppy spends precious downtime with her family and friends. Her older sister is very supportive, but doesn’t play football herself and Poppy’s younger brother enjoys nothing more than a kick about in the garden with her. Interestingly, he’s the same age Poppy was when she began her football career. Watch this space – he has a great teacher. For Poppy’s parents those Saturday afternoons spent shivering on a soggy touchline have been worth it to watch their daughter fulfilling her dreams. “They are really proud of my achievements and have supported me every step of the way,” she says.
When asked about heroes I thought Poppy might say Rachel Yankey, or another star of women’s football, but instead she names players from the men’s game – “Pique who plays for Barcelona because of his first touch and his movement off the ball and the opportunities he creates. Also Gerrard for the way he holds himself on the pitch and the way he has captained England.” I wonder if this is an indication of the gulf that still exists between the men and women’s game? “Women’s football is increasingly being recognised and is getting bigger all the time. The standards are higher now for example the England Seniors winning the Cyprus Cup,” says Poppy. (England beat Canada in the final of the Cyprus Cup earlier in the year to be crowned 2013 champions). Although naturally Poppy supports Birmingham City, she says, “the team I most like to watch in English football is Manchester United, and in the Champions League Barcelona.”
Poppy’s future plans are refreshingly specific. “I want to gain a first team contract with Birmingham City Ladies and then go on to play football for England,” she says. “I love my football and intend to make it as a professional.” Given Poppy’s ambition, commitment and natural talent it’s probably highly realistic. While the World Cup in 2015 might be a tall order, you wouldn’t bet against seeing Poppy in a England senior shirt very soon.