Beats & Rhymes FC

Jess Fishlock interview: The Reign goes on as Wales captain takes shelter in sound

Photo: The Women's Game

Photo: The Women’s Game

 

Wales captain Jess Fishlock has won numerous fans for the skill, character and enthusiasm she has brought to the game but even the greatest of entertainers need some respite. The Seattle Reign midfielder and Melbourne Victory favourite shares how music sets her free from the whirlwind.

Recent months have been good to Jess as she got the opportunity to return to a location and a team she reserves a lot of affection for. Playing in her second consecutive W-League season, she was a winner in the Grand Final as Melbourne Victory defeated Brisbane Roar 2-0 in February. The 27-year-old was named Player of the Match but the time to bask in the glory was as fleeting as ever for the frequent jet-setter.

After captaining Wales in two home friendly draws with Romania in early March, she set off for the US in the middle of the month to prepare for a second National Women’s Soccer League campaign with Seattle Reign. The NWSL gets underway on Saturday 12th April and the Reign begin a day later at home to Boston Breakers.

The first Welsh women’s player to play professionally in the US, Jess is by now used to juggling a packed schedule and it makes unwinding in her spare time all the more important. The ex-Cardiff City youngster knows how to make something happen on the field but away from it she is more than happy to slow the pace completely.

“I actually just listen to music and I read. I know it’s boring but I love just going to a coffee shop and taking a book.

“I do that a lot. My life’s so busy and on-the-go that I just need to relax when I’m not travelling or training.

“Something I’ve learned is to enjoy my own company, maybe too much!”

Jess was named in the NWSL’s Best XI in 2013 despite Seattle finishing 7th in the table. She often displays her excellent quality from midfield and in addition to that she has masses of charisma, making her a much-admired player and personality. Her name is firmly established in the women’s game but not everyone will be aware of just how much she values music and its meaning to her.

“I think anyone who knows me knows that music is a huge part of my life. I’m always singing and music is one of those places you can always go to and it just explains things and feelings for me in a way that I probably couldn’t with words.

“My overall genre of music would be soft, indie rock / indie. I like The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Imagine Dragons, also One Direction!

“I love Miley (Cyrus) too. If I was going to listen to an album it would be indie rock / pop.

“I’m not really a fan of house or trance. That’s a bit too much for me and just ends up leaving me a bit confused!”

Having been part of numerous teams so far in her career, Jess has been able to take in a vast array of genres and playlists. Before joining up with Melbourne Victory she had a temporary stint with Glasgow City, playing in the Champions League last 16 as the eight-time Scottish champions were beaten over two legs by Arsenal. One of her teammates from the club, an international defender for Scotland, got the seal of approval from Jess for her music.

“Nicola Docherty at Glasgow City has some good stuff – a bit of a mash-up. The girls in Australia are big on their music too.

“Bri Davey in Melbourne has really good music and it’s more acoustic and kind of underground so that was quite educational for me. I’m a bit of a DJ for Wales, although I don’t always get great reviews.

“I always stick to the ones in the charts otherwise I get a few raised eyebrows.”

 

Photo: Emily Mogic / The Women's Game

Photo: Emily Mogic / The Women’s Game

 

Jess is the latest player on here to bring up Melbourne Victory and Australia goalkeeper Brianna Davey and her Matildas colleagues Caitlin Foord, Tameka Butt and Melissa Barbieri have all endorsed her singing talent in their interviews. The 19-year-old receives a further mention from Jess, who also recalls a Welsh international defender grabbing her attention back in their days as youth players.

“Bri Davey plays guitar and if she wasn’t a great goalkeeper she’d be on X Factor. Loren Dykes is the quietest person but once at youth level she started singing ‘Oh Happy Day’ from Sister Act 2 and everyone was just in awe.”

Nostalgia is very much treasured in these interviews and maybe the best opportunity for that comes when the player is asked for the very first record they bought. Some can look back on theirs as a bit of a guilty pleasure but for Jess she has The Queen of Rock and Roll!

“I think it might have been Tina Turner…yeah, it was Tina. The other one I was thinking was ‘Joseph and the (Amazing) Technicolor Dreamcoat’ and it wasn’t that.”

For any player who signs with a new team it can most definitely feel like the first day of school as they meet their new teammates. One of the most renowned ways that teams like to break the ice is to have the new recruits sing in front of everyone. Has Jess ever been made to sing for her fellow players?

“Only willingly at karaoke! I do Tina Turner ‘Rolling’ (Proud Mary) and me and Gwennan Harries are karaoke queens.

“We do ‘Hotel California’ (The Eagles) and ‘Walking In Memphis’ (Marc Cohn).”

Someone Jess knows very well is the aforementioned Wales striker Gwennan Harries. The 26-year-old has been sidelined since November 2012 with a knee injury but has just announced her move to Cardiff City from Bristol Academy as she gets set to return to action.

Jess recruited her when asked which of her career teammates she would record a cover version with. This also took her back to the time when a certain Wales striker, now playing for Welsh legend Jayne Ludlow at Reading, got a very memorable wedding gift!

“It’s a great question. I’d do a Welsh song ‘Hymns and Arias’ with Gwennan Harries, probably with the words changed.

“We made up a wedding song for Helen Lander (now Helen Ward) with the words to that song changed to be about her career.”

I have made sure that the W-League has had a lot of focus on this site and it is abundantly clear that the competition is becoming increasingly appealing for players each year. Jess has an undeniable bond with so many elements of her time living and playing in Australia.

The season just gone was her second Down Under and Melbourne Victory made up for their defeat in last year’s Grand Final to Sydney FC by beating Brisbane Roar 2-0 to win the trophy. The Victory actually lost 5-1 at home to Sydney in the first game of 2013/14 but recovered excellently to finish 3rd in the regular season.

After beating Sydney 3-2 in the semi-final, a game in which Jess scored the opener, the Victory won the Grand Final against a Brisbane Roar side with FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Nadine Angerer in goal. The Melbourne scorers on the day were Matildas legend Lisa De Vanna, another past interviewee on here, and one of Jess’s Seattle Reign teammates, 24-year-old Lauren Barnes. She mentions both players when assessing why the season ended in success.

“I think it was a mixture of having a really good balance, quality in the right areas, and the heartache of last year. It’s such a short season so it’s really important to get a good start.

“We went unbeaten in nine and then came down again (with defeats in Round 11 and 12), but peaked after that. It comes down to great management, experienced players like myself, Lisa De Vanna, Lauren Barnes, and then the younger players too.”

 

Photo: The Women's Game

Photo: The Women’s Game

 

Melbourne were captained by defender Steph Catley who only turned 20 in January and has recently signed for NWSL holders Portland Thorns. Jess had some very kind words for her when talking about what she loves the most about playing for the Victory. She has shown her gratitude before to the Natoli family who took her in while she stayed in the country and as she explains, one of their children is an 18-year-old defender for Melbourne.

“The best part is the sun, by far, it was my best friend. Actually, I take that back, I like to think it was my best friend.

“It just makes life a lot better though. I love the girls as well and when you go to the other side of the world and you know them it makes it so much easier.

“I adore Steph Catley and she’s not only an outstanding player but a great person. Bri Davey too, if I could just work with them three times a month all year I’d be very happy.

“I enjoyed spending time with my host family too. They have three kids and one of them, Alex, plays for us.”

The coach who led Melbourne to their W-League success was Manchester-born Dave Edmondson who has taken over as Bristol Academy manager, replacing Mark Sampson who became England boss at the end of last year. Edmondson will also be director of football at the club and he has extensive experience working in the game in Australia and New Zealand.

Bristol were fantastic to watch in the FA Women’s Super League last season as they took it to the final day, eventually just losing out to Liverpool for the league crown. Jess has had two spells with the club and she believes the Vixens have chosen very wisely with their new gaffer.

“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Dave. He’s committed to developing a team in the right way and he gives great attention to detail.

“He’s also great at changing a game if something’s not working. In the semi-final (with Sydney FC) he made substitutions that really gave us the momentum to go on and win and when you have faith in someone like that it helps you as a player massively.

“I think Dave will take Bristol to the next level and will really thrive in that environment.”

For all those involved with the NWSL, whether as players, staff or supporters, there is so much excitement as we edge ever nearer to the start of the 2014 season, which arrives on Saturday April 12th. There are of course some premier names on the Seattle Reign roster, such as goalkeeper Hope Solo, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and forward Sydney Leroux to name but three, but you could go through the list and pick out domestic and international talent.

Scottish midfield star Kim Little, who head coach Laura Harvey managed at Arsenal, is one of those who has joined Jess at the club. They came 7th in the inaugural NWSL season but with newcomers Houston Dash making it a nine-team competition this time the Reign are naturally aiming for much higher.

Jess was the league’s second ever Player of the Week and she scored four goals over the season, making her the team’s leading scorer behind Megan Rapinoe with five. Besides adapting to the play she also had to get used to living in the US. This time around she has that familiarity and she delivers a positive overall assessment of The Emerald City.

“I loved the West Coast, as a city I think Seattle is brilliant and I actually wish I’d spent more time seeing it. As it was 100 per cent football for me I didn’t take much time to enjoy Seattle, although I did see some of it.

“This year I’ll have more balance and I’m looking forward to a different way of living. It’s very different to over here (the UK) and I didn’t struggle but it was a change I was aware of.

“There were some parts I thought were great and others I thought ‘OK, that was a bit weird’ but I embrace that. I’m living in their country so I have to adapt to the way they live.

“There were a lot more positives than negatives.”

Once with AZ Alkmaar, Jess has played for teams in England, Holland, Australia, America and Scotland so far in her career and also lived with Canadians Kaylyn Kyle and Emily Zurrer last year while in Seattle. Light-hearted questions are all well and good but it is time for a very serious one. As captain of her national team, does Jess fear for the safety of her Welsh accent?

“I’ve lost my Welsh a little bit, which is devastating for me. I’m going to throw this out there, I might get some backlash for it, but I think 100 per cent it’s the best accent in the world, which is one of the reasons I like going home.

“My accent’s definitely got twangs from all over the world now. I blame Holland, they couldn’t understand a single word I was saying so I had to speak much slower and change how I talked.”

There is a lot more to enjoy this year about one of the women’s game’s true personalities. In addition to her pursuit of silverware with Seattle Reign she will also be doing all she can to lead Wales to the 2015 World Cup in Canada. The national team face Turkey away on Friday April 4th before a home match with Ukraine five days later. The NWSL season concludes at the end of August and although another liaison with Australia is a strong possibility who knows where the path will take Jess for the final months of 2014?

 

Photo: The Women's Game

Photo: The Women’s Game

 

For now, it is over to her to take on the most challenging question of the lot! This is the way I like to end each of the interviews on here as the player is asked to select a fantasy 5-a-side team (with themselves included) of the best they have ever played alongside. Australia goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri and Bristol Academy and Wales striker Natasha Harding both chose Jess for their line-ups, although she still has a way to go to make as many teams as US defender Becky Sauerbrunn has on here!

Jess lights up so many games and here she is to introduce the four who made the cut to play alongside her.

“Hope (Solo) in goal – needs no explanation but the best keeper in the world. She’s lovely and I enjoy her company.

“She’s quite dry and I get on with her. She has an opinion she believes in and when she does she’s vocal about it, which I don’t think is a bad thing.

“Lauren Barnes because she’s outstanding. She’s such a good player it’s ridiculous and if she wasn’t American she’d be captain of 90 per cent of national teams.

“It’s just unfortunate for her that she’s fighting against players to be on the best team in the world. With her, we always strip football back to how it would be if we were playing in the garden with friends.

“It’s always enjoyable and because she brings that out in the person she is I know I’ll play good football with her. A great player to have beside me.

“Steph Catley because she’s a great player – she’s strong going forward and on the ball. She’s got a lot of good attributes and I’ve seen how she’s developed in the last 18 months.

“As it’s 5-a-side we probably wouldn’t have positions, it’d be more of a free-for-all. I love playing with her and she makes it fun.

“Pinoe (Megan Rapinoe) – again, pretty self-explanatory. She makes something happen from nothing.

“She can get you goals and do something to make you clap while you’re still playing. In 5-a-side she’d be a lot of fun.

“I’d definitely make her change her hairstyle though – she could just wear a wig while she played!”

Follow me on Twitter: @chris_brookes

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Seattle Reign fans (and anyone else!) can also read my previous interviews below with Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe talking music, teammates and life:

 Sydney Leroux interview 

 Megan Rapinoe interview

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