We were over the moon that Jacqui agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to hold a conversation with us. Jacqui is a fabulous presenter on many sports shows, including the BBC's live women's football coverage, plus she anchored the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup held in Canada earlier this year. Jacqui was also the first woman to commentate on Match of the Day. She talks to us today about her experiences going into the World Cup tournament and the impact it's had on the women's game. A huge thank you to Jacqui, here is what she had to say...
We loved watching the World Cup, it was gripping throughout (we loved your coverage too!) What were your thoughts going into the World Cup and how did they live up to expectations?
Thanks. I was a little worried about England's prospects. Nobody was too sure about who would play in which positions and it seemed the players weren't too sure what to expect, so it was a time of uncertainty. The opening France game was a real concern as the players apparently had no confidence in their ability to retain the ball and attack, but we were all delighted that the team grew into the tournament and were able to have a real impact.
What has seen the biggest impact since the World Cup?
Awareness. The main thing I notice is that people know about the England women's team now: the players, managers, etc. I'm often stopped by fans outside their Premier League clubs and they want to talk about the women, not the men. I'm astounded by it because it's so new. But I'm delighted that people finally know that women can play football to a high standard! It's just such a shame it's taken so long. Now they need to buy tickets for matches and develop a culture of going back every home game.
What do you think is the best way forward for grassroots football?
Good facilities, good coaches, supportive (but not domineering) parents and enthusiastic young players wanting to get the best out of themselves and each other.
It was really interesting to see the media coverage that came with the World Cup - the togetherness of the team was well documented but it was also clear to see from any interviews or coverage of the team. Obviously the talent in the squad was incredible, in terms of the spirit they demonstrated, how much of an impact do you think that had on their success?
I think the players deserve a huge amount of credit for the way they worked their way through the tournament. It seems they were stung by criticism after the France game but they didn't let it get them down. They made sure they again stuck to their game plan in the following games and played to their maximum. To be devastated by not beating the reigning world champions in the semi-finals shows how far they had come.
In all circuits of the game, what do you think creates a successful team/player?
Individuals looking after themselves properly, eating the right foods, training the right way with the right mindset and encouraging those around them to do the same. Challenging themselves and each other to break new boundaries - not be content with doing things the way they’ve always been done, just for the sake of it. Above all, the team must be greater than the sum of its parts. Team organisation, spirit and desire can take you a long way.
Especially within the women's game, what can be done, in your opinion, to continue to build on the success we've had this year?
Everyone needs to do their bit - players and teams must strive to be better and more professional. Fans must buy tickets and merchandise and encourage friends and family to do the same. That will encourage media outlets to want to be involved but the media doesn’t owe the game anything as such. Large crowds and an exciting spectacle will attract sponsors and media alike.
We are very pleased to have a very talented group of coaches. Who were your role models growing up within the game? Did you have a female coach/footballer that you remember looking up to?
No! Sadly, women’s football wasn’t on television when I was very young. Then I saw Hope Powell and Karen Walker’s generation for just one season on Channel 4. I never had a favourite female player, only male players at my local club. Steve Bull of Wolverhampton Wanderers and England was plastered all over my bedroom walls! I’m so happy that young girls now have a raft of star players to look up to - not only with England but at their local clubs too.
A big thank you to Jacqui once again for allowing us the time to interview her. A truly great insight from a wonderfully talented lady.