Gemma Bonner – Living the Dream

(Courtesy of Liverpool Ladies FC)

(Courtesy of Liverpool Ladies FC)

Pre-season training is now under way and the fact I can start 2014 as a professional footballer is a dream come true.

It has been an interesting off-season seeing all the movement that has taken place with players coming over to play in the FA WSL from countries like America and Australia, while some of my international teammates have also been moving clubs.

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Gemma Davison, Martha Harris and Libby Stout, our new signings, and I can honestly say I am really excited by their arrivals as they add real quality to our squad.  Having experience of playing against Gemma, I know she will pose a big attacking threat for opposition teams whilst Martha and Libby will add extra quality to our backline.  I think it’s great overseas players want to come here as it means we have to keep improving to stay at the top. As players you want to be tested against the best and I think we’ll be doing that this year.

New signing Libby Stout (Picture courtesy of Liverpool FC)

New signing Libby Stout (Picture courtesy of Liverpool FC)

Early in January I was away with England in La Manga and it was great to get started with the new Manager Mark Sampson. There were a lot of new faces, and there was a real buzz about the squad and now everyone is looking ahead and vying for selection at the Cyprus Cup.

A lot of the girls have been involved in the setup in some capacity, but it was a fresh start for everyone. Mark and Marianne Spacey focused a lot on creating the right environment whilst working hard and playing with a smile on our faces!

It was great to kick a ball again after the winter break especially after the torture of fitness testing the week prior to La Manga which gave us time to overcome the severe DOMS we all had from it.

A massive highlight of the trip for me was been given the privilege to captain the side in a training game against Ireland while out in Spain. It was a big surprise but absolute privilege. It’s always been my dream to play for England, but to captain the team was something special that I’ll always remember.

Gemma leading the handshakes against Ireland (Picture courtesy of Gilly Flaherty)

Gemma leading the handshakes against Ireland (Picture courtesy of Gilly Flaherty)

The following match against Norway was a great test against a really good side, and for us as a new group we were happy with the performance although it’s always disappointing conceding a goal late on to finish with a 1-1 draw.

My focus is now on Liverpool and to be now training in a the full-time environment is great. We want to make the most of it and ensure we are ready for when the season starts.

Finally I would like to congratulate my team mate Tash Dowie on being the runner-up for the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year, it is a massive achievement for her and well deserved after having a great season with us!

Captain’s Blog by Gemma Bonner – An eye opening week in many ways

Gemma Bonner

It’s been a busy and eye opening few days since making my second appearance for England last week, with the North West Football Awards taking place and a visit with some of the Liverpool staff to the Linda McCartney Centre.

The game last week against Turkey was definitely a tougher test than the home game as it’s always more challenging going into an environment that is much different to what you’re used to.

We did try and acclimatise and learn about the culture by making a visit to a local mosque, which was certainly an interesting experience and a good opportunity for some time with the team off the pitch.

Obviously the result was the important thing and to come away from the qualifiers this year with a 100% record was vital following the Euros, and from a personal perspective, another clean sheet is also very pleasing.

The Turkey match will be my last game until pre-season begins in the New Year, but my responsibilities with Liverpool will continue throughout the off-season.

Earlier this week I was honoured to be nominated for Best Women’s Player in the North West Football Awards which were held at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, alongside my England team mate Toni Duggan, and her Everton team mate, Nikita Parris. I attended with Becky Easton and SheKicks editor Jen O’Neill.  It was also nice to invite my dad along to the event.

Toni ended up taking the award and I would like to congratulate her for that. She’s had a great year and having faced her a few times last season, I know first hand how good she is.

With North West Men's Player of the Year, Jamie Carragher.

With North West Men’s Player of the Year, Jamie Carragher.

I did get to meet some great people on the night, including former Liverpool defender, Jamie Carragher. He was a really nice guy and won Best Male Player at the awards. He joked on the night that the one year he wins the award is the year he spent most of the season on the bench. The irony!

The glitz and glamour of awards night is always nice, but as a representative of Liverpool football club, we also have responsibilities to our local community.

Earlier this week I visited the Linda McCartney Centre with the gaffer Matt Beard, Becky Easton and Sophia Riccio.

The centre is part of the Liverpool University Hospital and treats women diagnosed with breast cancer.

With one of the patients at the centre

With one of the patients at the centre

We were shown around the unit and chatted with patients, who were really great and knew about our league title victory. We had the trophy with us, so they were keen to hold it and have their photo taken.

The staff were really friendly and the facilities are excellent, so while it was really difficult to see people so ill, I know that they are in good hands.

The person who showed us around the unit, Sheena Privett, was diagnosed with cancer in January this year, but has a big interest in sport and is now trying to do some fundraising to support the unit.

With Sheena Privett, who has just completed her treatment at the centre.

With Sheena Privett, who has just completed her treatment at the centre.

We’ve given her some signed items and will certainly be supporting her when we can, but for now, I’d really appreciate it if you visited her website www.sportsupportslm.com and showed your support.

Thanks as always for reading.

Captain’s Blog: A Crazy week

A special moment: Photo provided by Gemma Bonner

A special moment: Photo provided by Gemma Bonner

To say it has been a crazy few days, would be an understatement. To win my first league title, make my England début and then win an award at our End of Season do, I could never have imagined this a week ago.

As I write this I’m feeling quite sleep deprived after celebrating on Sunday and then having a pretty intense media schedule on Monday, but it was all worth it.

This time last week, I found out in a team meeting that I was making my England début against Turkey. I can’t put into words how it makes you feel when you know you’re going to play for your country, it’s a great honour.

I spoke to the likes of Fara and Casey when I found out I’d be playing and they were great. They both have so much experience and for a young player like me, that is invaluable in calming your nerves.

I prepared like I would for a game with Liverpool, but about an hour before kick off, all I could think was “oh my god, I’m about to make my England début!”

One to cherish: Photo provided by Gemma Bonner

One to cherish: Photo provided by Gemma Bonner

The game itself was an ideal one for me to make my debut. It was a good win and it was a game where, despite Turkey not being the strongest, you had to concentrate for 90 minutes because we had most of the ball. It was a great feeling to play for England though. I’ve played a few times in behind closed doors matches, but the atmosphere was great at Portsmouth, so it was very different and great to see so many fans.

I had the Friday to reminisce about my début, but it was straight back to business on Saturday with our last training session before the title decider with Bristol. We knew we were favourites, but we were never going to underestimate them. They’ve been brilliant this season and we knew we were in for a match.

A lot has been made of the money the club has spent and the foreign players, but we’ve ignored that all season and I can honestly say the team spirit and the character within the squad played a massive part in our success. We played a great game on Sunday and when I had the chance to lift the league trophy, it’s without doubt one of the highlights of my career.

We’ve had pressure on us all season, but we’ve stayed right as a unit and I think we fully deserved to win the league. I won’t go into detail about the celebrations Sunday night, but what I will say is every player and every member of staff was out after the game – which really shows how close we all are and how much it meant to come out on top.

I think I crawled in about 3am, which probably wasn’t the smartest move by me, as I had to be up at 5am to go on the sofa for BBC Breakfast. I was meant to have two other teammates with me, but for various reasons (I think you can guess why) they pulled out, but managed to persuade Sarah Quantrill to come to my rescue as I was staying at her house.

It was quite daunting being on BBC Breakfast, but it was all worth it after getting a ‘well done’ from John Legend, who was on immediately after me. That morning I did BBC 5Live, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4 and ITV, plus some local media – I was exhausted by the end of it.

I got about an hour’s sleep before heading to our End of Season Awards that night. I’m not going to lie, I struggled through it because I was so tired. I was lucky enough to pick up Manager’s Player of the Year, which honestly could have been won by so many of the team. I’m incredibly appreciative to have won the award and it caps a great season for me personally.

While at Anfield for the do, I was also honoured to sign the ‘International Wall’ following my appearance for England – there are some great names posted on there.

Some big names on this wall: Photo provided by Gemma Bonner

Some big names on this wall: Photo provided by Gemma Bonner

The foreign girls have now flown home and I’ll be concentrating on keeping fit and turning my attention to the World Cup qualifiers at the end of the month (if selected). As for Liverpool, we know the pressure will be greater next season, but with the Champions League to look forward to, I cannot wait

Gemma Bonner: Captain’s Blog

Hi,

I’m Liverpool Captain Gemma Bonner, and welcome to my blog.Gemma Bonner

To say it has been an interesting season would be an understatement, and the fact we now have our destiny in our own hands makes it even more interesting for the last few games of the season.

Ask any player, and they will always say that they like to be able to affect their own outcome, rather than relying on other people, and Arsenal’s previous two results means we don’t have to rely on anyone else but ourselves if we want to win the league title.

The first game after the Euros was difficult having all been away from each other, and the result at home to Arsenal showed that.

It took us a couple of games to gel again, but we knew ourselves we were not performing, and I think being knocked out of the cup by Lincoln Ladies really woke us up and everyone agreed we needed to bounce back quickly.

The first opportunity we had to do that was the game away at Bristol Academy, which was a crazy game however it was important for us to get 3 points.

While we won the game 4-3, we gave away some sloppy goals and I would have been much happier winning 1-0. We put ourselves under pressure, and as a defender, you want to be keeping clean sheets. However, the character of the team was brilliant and we have had the winning mentality all season, which helps in those types of games.

I’ve been really encouraged by how well the team has gelled, especially when you consider the number of new players at the club, including myself.

In action against Doncaster

In action against Doncaster

I cannot understate how important it has been to train with these players nearly every day. It has been a massive bonus for us and has certainly played a part in us working so well together, despite all being new to the club.

I was of course delighted with my goal to win the game, though, especially as it was voted Goal of the Month for August. I never thought I could win an award like this as I usually score tap ins or headers from corners, so I was really pleased to win and its something I won’t forget.

One of my proudest moments this season however, was being made captain at the start of the year, which was a real honour for me, especially when you look at the players we’ve brought in.

I think what’s good about our team is that we have experienced players like Fara Williams and Whitney Engen who you can go to if you need to – there isn’t just one captain in the team, there are many players who lead on the pitch. But I am really enjoying the responsibility of being a young captain, and it is a massive privilege to skipper such a huge name like Liverpool.

Celebrating her stunning strike earlier in the season

Celebrating with teammates after another goal this season

So we now turn our attention to the Merseyside derby, which is coming up on Thursday.

It’s a massive game and both teams will be up for it, but I’m hoping that we will come out on the right side of the result. Derby games are never easy, and Everton have proved a stern test this season, but ask any of the players on our team why they came to Liverpool, and they will all tell you that they are here to win the league.

Therefore, games against your rivals are games you have to overcome, and we’ll be doing everything we can to win on Thursday, and our games after that, to ensure we are the ones lifting that WSL trophy.