Firmly in the scoring groove for club and country, Wales forward Sarah Wiltshire’s attacking attributes have been impossible to ignore at Yeovil Town Ladies, so a distinctive personal soundtrack seems apt for the 23-year-old.
The past year has seen plenty of progression for the Glovers’ top scorer, as she finished the 2014 season amongst the most clinical players in FA Women’s Super League 2. Having joined Yeovil from Watford Ladies in July, Sarah continued to feature prominently for Wales during their 2015 World Cup qualifiers.
Her 11 WSL strikes meant that only Reading’s Fran Kirby (with 24) and Sunderland’s Beth Mead (13 goals) outdid her in the scoring stakes over the season and she has proved a superb addition to the Yeovil ranks. When each player signs for a team, they bring more than just their physical and technical ability, contributing in varying measures to the group dynamic. Sarah has fitted strongly into the FA WSL Club of the Year candidate and it is not just forward awareness and craft that sets her apart.
As each interview on this site explores, every footballer has their own ways of preparing for a game and music is a fundamental part of that for many individuals. There is also that relationship with certain genres, artists and songs in day-to-day life, and for Sarah, one style resonates with her that bit more than any other, as she explains.
“Country is what I love but I’m quite easy-going with other stuff I listen to. My favourite artists are probably Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, and Florida Georgia Line.
“Dustin Lynch does quite a few I like and there’s one in particular I like at the moment called ‘What You Wanna Hear’. I like it because he’s singing about taking a girl from the city to the country.”
Sarah, who grabbed the winner for Wales in their 1-0 victory over Turkey in June, is far from the first player on here to name country as their favourite genre. However, it is usually the Americans rather than those from the UK who pick it out, so how did this liking come about for her?
“I’ve been to America a few times and obviously they listen to it a lot more over there. It started with me liking one or two songs and then a lot more.
“I like the stories in the lyrics and also the guitars in the songs. I’ve seen Rascal Flatts when they were in London.”
As the WSL 2 season drew to its conclusion in October, Sarah netted in the 1-1 with Durham as Yeovil finished their campaign with an away point and a 5th-place standing. Based in Hertfordshire, Sarah had been travelling up to three hours to Somerset on Thursdays to join up with the Glovers but the season’s end afforded her some respite.
She is now back on loan with her former club Cardiff City LFC and whether she is behind the wheel or with a ball at her feet in her spare time, she is never far from a playlist.
“I listen to my iPod when I’m practicing on my own and driving to Yeovil every week I listen to it a lot. I got Spotify last month to have more songs to listen to.”
Cardiff are currently joint-2nd (with Portsmouth) in the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division, three points behind Brighton & Hove Albion but with two games in hand. Sarah comes into an attacking compliment boasting Kelly Aldridge and Cori Williams, who have 14 goals each.
Besides returning to play in the capital at club level, Sarah’s international career for Wales is moving along extremely well. Making her debut in March 2012 against Norway in the Algarve Cup, she has scored eight times in her 31 appearances so far and has become a notable name in the squad for opposition players and coaches to be mindful of.
Welsh captain Jess Fishlock featured on here back in March and revealed how her track choices when she has been team DJ in the past have not always had great reviews! Has Sarah ever grasped this responsibility in the lead-up to a match?
“No I wouldn’t be allowed to; no one wants to listen to my country music! At Yeovil it’s Katie Cook and with Wales it’s Tash Harding.
“It’s all pump-up stuff to get you in the mood before a game.”
Working part-time for a coaching company, Sarah has led clubs and P.E. lessons at a school just down the road from her in Ware. In her own school days, her music taste was slightly different to that of today and the first CD she bought was pretty far from country.
“I think it was Blue! I’m not sure which one but it had ‘If You Come Back’ on it.
“I would have been about nine or ten years old. The same as most young girls, I liked Blue, A1 and Backstreet Boys back then.
“At secondary school, it was more The Script and The Fray.”
Of Sarah’s 12 goals in all club competitions this year, one of them rescued a point against her former club Watford. At Yeovil, she has been working with her one-time Cardiff manager Jamie Sherwood, the husband of ex-Wales midfielder Katie, who has just retired from playing for the club.
Also calling time on her career out on the field was captain Rachael Edwards, who spent eight years with the Glovers and was an example to many in that spell. The defender battled back from serious knee trouble as a teenager to return to football in her mid-twenties, and as her last season recently came to an end she had one more performance to give, as Sarah describes.
“We did a talent show at Yeovil where we had to get into groups and perform. We had to write our own songs about Yeovil.
“I was too shy but Rachael Edwards and Helen Bleazard were really good!”
One of Sarah’s ex-Watford teammates happens to be a very significant person in her life. The 23-year-old goalkeeper is a maths teacher and this season just gone was also her last as a player as she hung up the boots and put away the gloves.
When asked which of those she has played alongside in her career she would record a cover of a song with (if put in such a situation), it was an easy choice for Sarah to make.
“I would choose my best friend, Lauren Davey. She stands out for singing, from the players I’ve played with.
“We would probably do ‘Believe’ by Cher!”
Jamie Sherwood’s predecessor as Yeovil boss was Sarah Lawler, who was with the club for over a decade as player and manager and someone who had a big part in the Glovers earning the right to join the WSL 2 for its inaugural season this year. She became FA Regional Elite Women’s Coach Developer (South West) and recently earned her UEFA A Licence.
As mentioned, Yeovil have been shortlisted along with WSL 1 champions Liverpool for FA WSL Club of the Year and aside from all the goals, Sarah (Wiltshire) has found plenty of positives since she joined.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve only played there half a season but everyone has made me feel really welcome.
“It’s been quite far to go but it’s definitely been worth it. It’s a really good bunch of girls and they make the travelling worthwhile.”
Growing up supporting her dad’s team, Tottenham Hotspur, Sarah was an England youth but ultimately got her breakthrough at international level with Wales from Finnish coach Jarmo Matikainen (succeeded recently by Arsenal legend and Reading manager Jayne Ludlow). It was announced early in the year that he would leave his position in March 2014 but he agreed to stay in charge for the remainder of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Wales eventually finished 3rd in the group behind Ukraine and winners England but Matikainen left having made a huge impact on women’s football in the country. Sarah emphasised his significance in the progression of her career while also noting her Yeovil manager’s understanding of how to utilise her ability.
“Jamie (Sherwood) gets the best out of me and there’s also Jarmo who’s just left the Wales team. He was a big part of turning it around for me in football.”
With a boyfriend who not only encourages but also practices football with her, Sarah is grateful for the support system she can call upon. When discussing interests and ambitions she touched upon one possibility she may look into somewhere along the line.
“Sometimes I think of playing in America one day but I like football here and having my family here. I just like playing football really.”
Sarah’s international goals this year also include efforts against Scotland and Montenegro and she can look back on 2014 as a period in which she put a marker down in her young career. There is everything to suggest that there is much more to come from her, but for now, let’s get a glimpse into just some of those she has enjoyed playing alongside in her time in the game.
The way this regular closing question works is for the interviewee to select four of their best career teammates to go alongside them in a fantasy 5-a-side line-up. At 23, Sarah would appear to still be in the early stages of her on-pitch days but she has plenty of players to choose from nonetheless.
Here is her line-up and it includes a mix of Watford and Yeovil, with the Wales skipper to help drive the team forward.
“Lauren Davey in goal. She’s just retired but she was an England youth player, played for Watford for a long time and is so underrated.
“I’ll have to have Jess (Fishlock) in midfield; probably the best I’ve ever played with. She’s world-class and I can’t really say much more than that about her.
“Also in midfield, Megan Wynne. She’s another friend, hard-working and I used to play with her at Watford.
“Jade Lorton-Radburn at Yeovil can play defence or midfield. She’s very athletic, wins tackles and is just a good player to have around, so I’d choose her.”
Follow me on Twitter: @chris_brookes
Like Beats & Rhymes FC on Facebook and catch every one of these interviews