Everton’s Chloe Kelly says that playing rough and ready cage football growing up has helped to mould her into the player she is today.
The 21-year-old was brought up on a west London estate kicking a ball around with her five older brothers and their friends but was never treated any differently.
Kelly has started the season in flying form showcasing her talents for all to see but believes her experiences earlier in life have helped harden her into an all-rounder and a tough cookie.
“My brothers and their friends never made it easy for me and I think that helped make me the player I am today,” said the forward.
“The physical side of my game has benefited from that but also my technical side has come from those days spent playing cage football.
“I was never treated any differently, they used to bounce me off the cage walls and that toughened me up – I wouldn’t have had it any other way. “I’d like to think I’m a bit better than all of them now and I know they are very proud of me but I have a lot of thank them for.”
The Toffees are producing their most promising Barclays FA Women’s Super League season ever with victories over Brighton and Tottenham sandwiching a historic win against Liverpool at Anfield making it three on the spin for Willie Kirk’s side.
The form of Kelly has been integral to that success with her four goals putting her level with Arsenal striker and Ballon d’Or nominee Vivianne Miedema as the league’s top scorer. But the talented forward hasn’t always been a blue and could well have ended up on the same team as Miedema had she not left the Gunners in 2017 in search of regular first-team opportunities.
“I worked very hard during my time at Arsenal but since I have come to Everton I have learned so much more and improved a lot more,” said Kelly, who made a handful of appearances for Arsenal after making debut in 2015.
“I learned a lot from the experienced players like Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankee but it came to a time when I needed to be pushing on and getting minutes on the pitch so moving to Everton was a great step for me.”
And Kelly believes that there is newfound cohesion and competitiveness within the Everton squad this season that is helping to proper the Toffees up the table and mount a challenge on the ‘big three.’
“Maybe we haven’t always stuck together as much off the pitch but we are doing that too at the moment – and if you’re not performing someone is going to take your place, so the competitiveness is helping us too this season,” she added.
"I am playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and just enjoying my football – when I enjoy my football I play at my best and that is showing this season.
“I enjoy scoring goals but I love assisting my teammates too and I think I can bring both to the team with the way I play.”