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Libby Stout interview: Strings straight from the south – Reds keeper playing in the key of Kentucky

Liverpool Ladies FC

Liverpool Ladies FC

 

In her two seasons with Liverpool Ladies, goalkeeper Libby Stout has been one of the Reds’ chief organisers from the back, and the American is one who steps forward when it comes to team performances behind the scenes, getting the chance to showcase a symphonic side that has long been embedded within her.

After staving off Bristol Academy’s challenge in the 2013 season to become the first team other than Arsenal to win the FA Women’s Super League, Liverpool set out to repeat the achievement in the competition’s fourth year. One of their acquisitions for 2014 was a young keeper who had received her grounding in the game back home in the U.S. at Western Kentucky University, where she set a number of school records on the field – Libby Stout.

In the Louisville-born stopper, Reds manager Matt Beard got a player who had played professionally in France and Germany, as well as a person bearing the kind of characteristics that successful sides look for. Libby helped Liverpool to a second WSL title in succession, as they rose from third place on an unforgettable final day to overhaul both Chelsea and Birmingham City against the odds.

A blend of personalities who share the same goal is a hallmark of a great team and Liverpool have certainly not been short on players with the desired attributes in recent years. While fans now get to find out more of their lives and routines than ever, there is still plenty that plays out away from the public eye.

Libby, who had her 25th birthday in June, describes one of the ways the team chooses to kick back away from the tension of training and matches, and it is perfectly in keeping with who she is.

“At Liverpool, we’ve had a handful of days and nights where we’ve just sat and played music and sang. I play guitar and have done probably 10-15 open mic nights; I mainly did those in college, but have done a couple here in Liverpool.

“I’ve also played a few times for the various teams I’ve been on. I like to play different things, from country to r&b; really any song I like I’ll see if I can learn it on the guitar.”

Joining FF Yzeure Allier Auvergne of France’s Division 1 Féminine in 2012, Libby became Western Kentucky University’s very first player to sign a professional contract and the achievement prompted her WKU coach Jason Neidell to speak of her great qualities, as not only a player, but as a person. During her senior year in 2011, she became the Lady Toppers’ all-time leader in wins and minutes played, also setting records for shutouts (39 from 76 games), her goals against average (0.68) and her save percentage (.860) during her time at WKU.

Home state pride is something that remains strong with Libby, and as well as her sport, Kentucky was also where her music love developed of course. Raised in the city of Louisville, the first guitar she bought as a teenager gathered dust for a while, until her brother wanted to learn to play and the thought of being outdone by her sibling provided ideal motivation to pick it back up!

Specific songs and albums can strike a chord at certain points in our life and subsequently be instantly linked to particular memories in our minds from then on. When you revel in discovering new music it adds a new dimension to your travels, and Libby, who has represented teams in four separate nations, can certainly identify with this kind of melodic companionship.

“Music definitely plays a part in my life; I typically do everything with music on in the background. It’s what I’m used to as my parents are the same way, and I grew up surrounded by music.

“I taught myself how to play the guitar about seven years ago, and recently have picked up the ukulele. I try to practice and play every other day or so.

“I really enjoy all types of music. I’m probably most drawn to more alternative, folk, and singer/songwriter.

“I love David Gray, Ray LaMontagne, and Alison Krauss and (her band) Union Station. I really enjoy music with a bit more of a beat as well; dance and some hip-hop.”

Prior to signing for FF Yzeure, Libby had visited France on a European trip with her friend, Lindsay, taking in Paris on a vacation which also included Florence and Rome. For collegiate players in the States, long bus journeys to away games with the team are pretty standard. However, the multiple hours Libby spent venturing through France with Yzeure brought new pockets of picturesque beauty, with vineyards and stunning towns to marvel at, as well as the French Alps as the backdrop to a game in Grenoble.

She recalls one journey in particular, as the team livened up the ride back from a win in Strasbourg by singing together. Even if you are aware of cultural differences before moving to a new country there are still numerous elements that will surprise you once you arrive and immersing yourself in the surroundings and the way of life tends to help hugely in adapting.

With a distinct lack of fluent English speakers in Yzeure, as would be expected, Libby sampled French music and television to improve her language understanding. In the team changing room, there were also new sounds for her to experience.

“In my teams before, in France and Germany, it was typically one of the younger girls who took the DJ role, and it was all pretty much dance, hip-hop and the occasional ballad thrown in, plus some French and German songs. I was the DJ for a year or two when I was in college.”

 

Liverpool Ladies FC

Liverpool Ladies FC

 

Having represented Yzeure’s only professional club (with their male counterparts an amateur team), Libby finished up her time in France in June 2013 and went on to play for BV Cloppenburg of the top-level Frauen-Bundesliga. Living in the northwest of Germany, her spell in Lower Saxony took her up to her switch to Liverpool, where she would play alongside two Germans – defender Corina Schröder and midfielder Nicole Rolser (now with FC Bayern).

The Reds also have a German-born player in Icelandic international Katrin Omarsdottir and she is in and around the top of the list for musical prowess at the club.

“I’d say here at Liverpool we have a few really good singers…and a few pretty bad ones! Kate Longhurst is pretty good and will sing you any Beyonce song you want.

“Katrin also plays the guitar so we’ve played together a few times. I’d have to say Katie Zelem is probably our worst singer, but definitely the most entertaining.”

The 2014 WSL triumph was the first title of Libby’s career and various players to have enjoyed success with Liverpool have featured in music/football interviews on here, including Gemma Bonner, Natasha Dowie, Corina Schröder, Fara Williams and Rosie White, as well as Luis Garcia and Florent Sinama-Pongolle from the men’s team. Earlier this year, the Reds’ England midfielder Fara Williams told how Katie Zelem was in charge of the pre-game music, so has the 19-year-old midfielder been holding down that role of late?

“Katie is still the DJ and Lucy Staniforth takes over when Katie is away. They both play similar stuff; today’s hits, some old school hits, and everything in between really.”

Current Washington Spirit midfielder Amanda DaCosta and Western New York Flash defender (and 2015 FIFA World Cup winner) Whitney Engen flew the flag for the U.S. in their time at Liverpool, while England Under-23 and current Reds defender Satara Murray is also American-raised. On the music side, an early one from Libby’s collection came from across the Atlantic, although it’s fair to say that more than a few English players also had this group’s tapes or CDs at the time!

“The first CD I bought was probably a Backstreet Boys album, to be honest. I also was into Britney Spears when she first came on the scene, but music I always heard from my dad’s collection was more like Neil Young, The Jayhawks, Tracy Chapman, John Prine, Alison Krauss etc.

“My dad would not allow Backstreet Boys or Britney on his stereo!”

With a Champions League last-32 date with Italian side Brescia and the Continental Cup semi-final with Notts County approaching there is more than enough to occupy the Liverpool players. Nevertheless, if Libby was to grab some teammates for a cover version of a song, who would they be and which track would be getting a reworking?

“I’d choose Lucy Staniforth, Katrin, and Kate (Longhurst). We would probably record a cover of ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King.”

In addition to helping provide youth soccer camps with her old university, WKU, Libby has also hosted a clinic for young goalkeepers at her former club, Kentucky Fire Juniors, where she was able to share her experiences and lessons with both girls and boys. There’s no doubt she carries Kentucky with her wherever she goes and even her French when she was with Yzeure came complete with some Louisville twang!

Playing the game in her third different European country and approaching the end of her second season in England, Libby has found a familiarity on Merseyside that means she feels settled regardless of the approximately four-thousand-mile distance separating her from her home state.

“I have really loved living here in Liverpool and England as a whole. I think it’s been a fairly easy transition from life in KY as I find them both pretty similar.

“I’m from Louisville, which I have always thought is a similar city to Liverpool. Kentucky is mainly an agricultural state with rolling green hills throughout and it is known for horse racing, horse farms, and bourbon production.

“I grew up in the state’s biggest city of Louisville, but my parents are both from smaller towns in the countryside of Kentucky, so as a child we regularly went camping and visited family farms for holidays. Because of this I would say I’m a city girl with Southern charm.”

It is possible to pick out plenty of examples to the contrary, but it is so easy for players in the U.S. to slip away from soccer once their collegiate career draws to a close. Everyone has their own circumstances of course and in some cases pursuing a future in the game gets overtaken by other priorities and objectives in life.

In Libby’s case, she undoubtedly had the capabilities to take her career further once her days at WKU were up, and crucially, she possessed the desire to make it a reality despite any knockbacks. Being from Kentucky, she doesn’t come from a hotbed of soccer success stories and it is not unreasonable to suggest that it is that underdog mentality that has ultimately worked in her favour.

Her senior year was 2011, which also transpired to be the final season of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) in the U.S. Pro women’s soccer would of course return in the States when the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) began play in 2013, but her plans to try out for WPS after graduating were scuppered with the league’s suspension and ultimate dissolution in 2012.

As it happened, she drove 12 hours to Clermont, Florida to go and play for two months in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) with NTC Phoenix. That was the prelude to her move to France, which came about after she ended up getting an agent, who found that Yzeure needed a goalkeeper. Libby was given just five days to get herself over there and after a nine-day trial she had made the team.

Making the decision to head down to play in Florida had seemed huge and left her feeling unsure about the prospect. It was at this time that her parents reminded her how long she had wanted to play pro and to keep pursuing that ambition.

That kind of persistence and willingness to make big sacrifices for something she has always loved has led Libby to this point and she believes the sport has moulded her far beyond her role as an athlete.

“I think soccer has pretty much taught me who I am as an individual. It’s helped shape me into the person I am through valuable life lessons.

“I’ve learned many important things, including how to work in a group, how to compromise, how to lead, how to win, how to lose, and how to set and achieve my goals. Soccer has allowed me to better myself in so many positive ways.

“Not only that, but also it has allowed me to travel the globe and live within many different cultures. I have met so many amazing people along the way, who have and continue to help and support me through my journey.

“Soccer has also prepared me with the skills I will need for my future when I choose a career outside of the sport.”

 

Libby with some of her Liverpool teammates.

Libby with some of her Liverpool teammates.

 

Although she has become a league champion as a goalkeeper, Libby actually started out playing as a striker when she was growing up and only went in goal because her team needed someone. She was one of the kids who watched as the U.S. Women’s National Team won the 1999 World Cup, taking inspiration in the years to come from the American keeper that day, Briana Scurry.

Libby has been in camp with the National Team at Under-23 level on more than one occasion, working alongside the likes of World Cup-winning midfielder Morgan Brian, and while she won’t let it be any kind of distraction there is reason to believe in her chances of a future senior call-up. Playing music has always helped her to relax and relieve the stresses of the day and she shares some more of the interests and ventures that are filling her time away from the field at present.

“I like to play my guitar, explore the city for coffee shops, watch movies, and hang out with my teammates. I’m also taking an online class right now in forensic sciences and profiling, so I’ve been studying a bit as well.”

Being a keeper is definitely not for everyone but Libby derives enjoyment from the responsibility of being the last line of defence. Any team needs someone they can trust back there and the same is also true for the keeper when it comes to the personnel lining up in front of them.

It is time to get a glimpse into some of those Libby holds in such regard. Each interview on here concludes with the interviewee being asked to imagine themselves in a 5-a-side game and to select four of their teammates, from any time in their career, to complete their team.

The player gets to decide on what grounds they make their selections, whether it is for ability alone, their friendship with those teammates, or a great on-field connection with them, for example. It is pretty tough to choose just four, especially considering some of the names in the Liverpool squad in the last two years, but here are the ones who got Libby’s vote to start the game at least!

“I would choose four of my current teammates: Katrin Omarsdottir (midfielder), Kate Longhurst (forward), Martha Harris (defender), and Lucy Staniforth (midfielder). Katrin, Kate and Lucy are all very technical and Martha would just help us not to take the game too seriously!”

To purchase your tickets for Liverpool Ladies games, head to the following link: http://ladies.liverpoolfc.com/tickets

To catch each of these interviews, you can follow me: @chris_brookes

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