By Dan Andrade
Jersey’s Sara Luce has played in Muratti’s, won medals at Island Games and is now excelling at Southampton FC playing in goal for the famous English club’s women’s side.
Dan Andrade caught up with Sara about her memories of playing football in Jersey, how hard it was moving off the island and what it was like playing at St Mary’s Stadium.
Read the full interview with the shot stopper below!
Let’s start at the beginning, have you always been sporty? Which ones did you enjoy the most growing up?
Yes I have always been into my sport! My whole family are sporty. My sister Lisa plays for Team Jets Netball, my brother does all of the extreme sports such as mountain biking and BMXing. I tried lots of different things growing up, with football and hockey sticking with me. I played central defence in hockey for the island from the age of 13/14 all the way up to when I left the island for university.
What are your first memories of football?
My earliest memory was actually when I played outfield in Year 5 at FB Fields and it was a school tournament. I just remember it hammering down with hail and I absolutely loved it! My earliest goalkeeping memory was the first day I played there. The keeper we had left as they had gone from Year 6 to secondary school, so I offered to go in goal and it turned out for the better. I do have a not so nice memory which was a playground incident with the boys not letting me in goal but I feel like that gave me a drive to show that I can do it and want to improve, so it turned into a positive!
Did you have a professional player who you looked up to when growing up?
When I was younger women’s football didn’t have the profile it has now so I didn’t know many professional female footballers. My main goalkeeping role model was Edwin van der Sar. I am a Manchester United fan along with my dad, so Van der Sar became that role model figure for me. Then, as women’s football profile grew and I started watching games Karen Bardsley was the England goalkeeper at the time so she became a big role model. My main role models actually came from the island’s football team. Me and my dad always went to watch Murratis and I always looked at the goalkeepers thinking to myself, that is what I want to do – and I am proud to say that I have achieved that.
Who did you play for in Jersey and how much did you enjoy playing on island?
When I was 13 I played for St Brelade FC girls and played in a boys league, getting beat 6 to 10-0 regularly. However, as a goalkeeper I feel I benefitted from this because one of the best ways to improve is to play players better than you, even if at the time I wasn’t happy about losing as I liked to win! When it came to seniors I started to play for St John’s and on my 16th birthday I played my first game against Grouville. I stayed at St John until we all moved to St Lawrence where I stayed all the way up until university. I find playing in the Jersey league is so different to where I am now as when I moved over I don’t know any other players and go in not knowing what to expect, whereas in the Jersey leagues you know most of the players in the league. A lot of them are your team mates if you play for the island. Saying that I really enjoyed that aspect of it because you were playing against friends. It can also be very unpredictable, which always makes it more exciting.
You’ve represented Jersey – how proud a moment is it when you wear that shirt?
I was in the centre of excellence from Under 11’s all the way through to U16’s, U18s and then the senior team! I have always been so proud to represent the island. As I mentioned previously one of my goals was to play in the Muratti and that came true. I managed to play in two prior to them being stopped. Being able to be apart of what inspired me when I was young was special. Being part of Island Games squads have been great to, winning two bronze medals in the process as well! I reached my goals, and now I have exceeded them which is what is good about goals and dreams, once you reach one you can always set the next bigger and better one. I hope these Muratti’s will inspire future generations of women’s footballers, and goalkeepers coming through. Putting a Jersey shirt on will always have a special place in my heart.
How did the move to Saints come about – was it a quick process?
The move definitely came about when I went to university. At first, I never really wanted to go to university but then I realised the benefit of further education, but also that I could have the opportunity to play football in England and experience that. When I had decided to go to England I was speaking to Jodie Botterill about it and she said the JFA had good links with Southampton FC’s academy. The JFA then got in contact with Saints and made them aware that I was moving to Southampton. I then received a phone call from the Saints manager and he invited me to a training session the week I started uni. I loved it, all the girls were so nice and the club said that I could stay if I wanted so I took the opportunity! This was back in 2017 when the Southampton Women’s team had literally just formed so it makes me so proud that I was part of that group of players all the way to where we are now – that is special for me.
Was it hard leaving Jersey, or was it a no brainer for you?
As the initial move was for university I think it was made a lot easier because I had the idea in my head that I could see how it goes within the three years and then if I wanted to come home, then I could. I was making friends though football but also through university. I was studying through the day and training in the evening.
I did get home sick, I still do. Homesickness, I think some people don’t think about this side of football or moving away in general, I’m very close to my whole family so being away from them is hard. We message most days and FaceTime nearly every week but I miss the in person stuff, we are always trying to fit little moments in to see each other in person, like mum and sister are apart of Team Jets so if they fligh into Southampton I’ll try meet them, whether for a hug at the airport or food at the hotel. I played a Southampton game up in Cheltenham where my brother lives and he came and watched me play, then we spoke for as long as we could after before my coaches called me in or if he’s getting the boat from Poole/ Portsmouth we will try meet on the way. Dad has come over to watch a couple games too, but only seeing them for these little moments is hard. If I have a bad training session I can’t just hug them. This is the side of moving away that was hardest and I still struggle with. But it makes those moments on the island all together or the little meetings more special. Hopefully the sacrifice is worth it.
Once uni finished it was a harder decision but deep down I knew I had this opportunity to play at a club like Southampton and I had to keep that opportunity to stay and see how far I can go with it! I found the job what I do now, which I love and that has made it so easy. I still get home sick, so I do head to the island whenever I can!
How does it feel playing for such a big English football club?
It is insane! Coming from little Jersey and playing at a club like Southampton FC with their great reputation, and now playing with youth and adult international players is crazy! I am so humbled for it. You finish training and you just walk around the facilities, sometimes I have to just stop and take it in, think ‘wow, this is where I play football!’. There is a homely feel to the club and everyone is so nice and welcoming. It is a fantastic club to be apart of.
What has been your highlights so far?
I have been at the club nearly four years and somehow every season tops the last. I could probably think of a highlight from every season but I would say that my top highlights are when we played two games at St Mary’s Stadium. That was amazing. The facilities and the opportunity to play there was just great. My top highlight however was our FA Cup run last season where we got to play Women’s Super League side Birmingham City. We gave them a great game, losing out 3-2 in the end. I was so proud of the team for our hard work and to manage to compete with a top WSL side.
What are your future goals, from this season and beyond?
The team has high aspirations, we are aiming for promotion but we know if we want to achieve that we have to think about the here and now. We need to put the hard work in now and we can’t under estimate any opponent, if we do that and work hard as a team hopefully we can achieve the promotion we are aiming for!