Lizzy “Everyone thinks I’m weird but I love spending my weekend at football” Matthews
On Saturday, the Clapton Ultras raised £411.56 for the London Black Women’s Project through stickers, badges and a zine about women and football.
The zine is now sold out, but we’ve been allowed republish the interview it featured with Clapton physio Lizzy Matthews here.
Sports Therapy Graduate Lizzy has been with the Essex Senior League for 4 years. First at Bari, then Ilford and now Clapton’s dedicated physio since 2016.
How did you get into physio?
Personal injuries. I wanted to see people go back to the pitches.
I played hockey at a high level at school. I then tore my ACL and lost the opportunity to go to America on a scholarship. From there, I developed the passion to help people rehab and return to sport.
I have been part time with West Ham Academy since a student and am hoping to go full time. I have an established business on the side and also do a couple of weeks a year with Nike Football.
Clapton and non-league football has been a big part of developing me – you see a lot more injuries at this level and that only helps to build my experience and portfolio.
Why do you volunteer at Clapton on top of your day job?
I find volunteering far more rewarding. Raising awareness of non-league football is a big passion. I benefit too – it helps me to keep progressing as a person.
Physio seems one of the few acceptable roles for women in football right now. Any comments?
Even though it’s the most accepted role it’s still really hard for women to get into. Even at this level, you don’t see many girls despite the constant need for volunteers.
There’s always been a stigma attached to women in football. Unfortunately, if you’re a woman with 20 men, people put two and two together and think things are going on.
I don’t want that being put on other girls and discouraging them from taking up football careers. I want to encourage more students – male and female – to develop the experience and confidence to do this role.
I mean, you saw the Carniero case? It’s tough being a girl – you get more attention just because you are a girl.
I’m going to say it. I was sexually assaulted by a guy, 18 months ago. Just because I was a girl working in football.
That shouldn’t be acceptable. That’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to do a job because I am good at it and enjoy it. The boys to me are like family, they are like my brothers. That’s something I will never give up.
Have you experienced any other difficulties with the ESL?
Yes. When I was studying I had to juggle a lot of commitments. At a particular time of year I missed two games in a row because of Uni commitments.
When I missed another game due to helping at West Ham, I got a text saying ‘Sorry we don’t need you anymore. We are going to have to let you go sweetheart – you’re making everyone’s wives jealous. You can’t commit to the hours we give you and it’s with a heavy heart I’m going to have to let you go.’
I worry about the same thing happening other women. It’s exhausting but I’ve learnt to be a lot tougher.
Do you think things have things changed for women in sport since you started?
No. 90% of the time women are pushed into the academy level and absent from men’s first teams. We are directed more to the junior boys, the safeguarding side, the softer side.
Often, having a mixed backroom team is far more beneficial. It can tone down the way that some people behave.
With football it’s all about the glamorous women, the wags and it’s not about the glamorous women working football. I don’t think women will be taken seriously in football for a while.
Look at how much grief Sian Massey got for being the only female, Premier linesperson at that level. Those attitudes keep talented women out.
It only takes a couple of negative comments for aspiring girls to question going to the next level. But you’ve got to push yourself to succeed.
I really wish more girls would come forward and do this kind of work.
My advice is if it’s really something you want to do, stick it out. It’s not an easy job. You’ll get grief and come home upset at times. But it can work if you build a network you can turn to when you need it.
What’s it like for you being a football fan?
I was in Cafe Football last week with my boyfriend and it was the Barca PSG game on Valentines and there were these guys looking at me like, she doesn’t know what the fuck she is talking about, so I raised my glass to them ‘Cheers’, kept drinking.
I thought, it doesn’t matter who I am what I do, I am watching sport which I enjoy, when I’ve got an opinion, whether it’s right or wrong I’m entitled to it.
I thought I was right! It is a bit of a shit experience, getting asked whether you know the offside rule is because you’re a girl.
Favourite moments or game?
Definitely the Gordon Brasted Trophy. It was my favourite day because we had our team day then our team night out. We had a really good tight bond then. We still do now but that day just wrapped up the whole season for us.
Who do you miss the most?
Peter Moore – he was so funny.
Our biggest miss is Pape…
He is out for this season, at least. They are saying he has a slipped disc. He has been updating me. It will take time.
Current top three in the squad:
Kristian Haighton: Due to a really big squad, all the guys were fighting for their spot. When he got a place because another player turned up late was when Kristian changed in terms of his attitude and work rate. He deserves to wear that armband. He’s an all-rounder.
Nathan Cook: he is a show stopper for me. He makes it look so effortless, so graceful. He has a good attitude. If he’s on the bench he doesn’t kick up a fuss. I’ve got a good bond with him, great banter, he’s a lovely lad.
I’m torn between Jonny Ashman and Ryan Reed: Jonny makes it look fancy. Ryan’s goals have been absolute screamers.
Are we going to win the league, Lizzy?
I would love to win the League. It’s taken us a while but we have turned it around. We’re doing well. It’s better with you guys.