The last year has seen many changes in the life of Casey Stoney, for better and for worse. Now a proud mother of twins, the England defender has nevertheless had to contend with losing her starting place in the national team, going from captain to playing just the one game since Mark Sampson’s arrival as coach.
With less than a month to go before the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, the player has admitted to finding her England plight “frustrating and disappointing”. Casey remains confident, nonetheless, of getting the call to what would be her third world finals, though a trip lasting several weeks to Canada would pose the kind of problems she has never faced before in her career.
“To be honest, I’d suffer a lot because I’d miss the little ones like crazy,” the Arsenal Ladies defender told FIFA.com. “It would be a tough psychological battle. I don’t have the money to take my family with me, and the children are only six months old in any case.”
Tilly and Teddy, the offspring in question, will be staying at home with their other mother, Megan Harris, Stoney’s former team-mate at Lincoln Ladies, the club where they met.
A team effort
It was Harris who gave birth to the twins, leaving Stoney free to focus on her career, which has only been affected by the disrupted sleep that comes with being a new parent. “Megan was absolutely adamant that I should be the one to carry on playing,” explained Stoney. “She wanted to retire to have the kids and she doesn’t regret it.”
It was a decision they both agreed on, which is the way things get done in the Harris/Stoney household: “Megan does the breast feeding and I do the cooking, cleaning and shopping. It’s tough because we don’t have anyone nearby to help us out, though our families come round quite a lot to lend a hand.”
Despite the new responsibilities in her life, not to mention the sleepless nights, Stoney would not have things any other way. “I feel my life has changed for the better,” she said. “I feel complete. Despite the lack of sleep, my fitness test results have been better than ever lately, which shows how determined I am to make the World Cup. The kids also inspire me to play better. They push me to excel because I want them to be very proud of me.”
I’ve been through some tough times and I’ve always striven to give my all and to help others be the very best they can be.
About to turn 33, Stoney believes life has never been better for her, in both a personal and professional sense, and has no intention of retiring from the game just yet: “I’ve still got a lot to offer my teams.” Rejected early in her career, she has continued to fight ever since, eventually breaking into the England side and going on to captain it more than 100 times, while also skippering the Great Britain team at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.
She also withstood the criticism that came her way after revealing she is in a same-sex relationship, becoming a role model and a support for many others. A long and often frustrating artificial insemination process provided another test of her character, her determination being rewarded with the chance to kiss her children. “I’ve always been strong,” she commented. “I’ve been through some tough times and I’ve always striven to give my all and to help others be the very best they can be.”
That selfsame philosophy has proved valuable in the dressing room, and Stoney sees it as vital to a new-look England’s chances of success in Canada: “There have been a lot of changes in the team, but we’ve got a good balance between youth and experience. We’ve got more options up front than ever.”
With the legendary Kelly Smith having retired from international football, it is just as well the English have alternatives in attack. “She’s a great loss, a world-class player,” said Smith’s former international team-mate. “Whenever you needed something extra-special, Kelly was there to give it. She was a unique talent, though we do have other options now, like Jodie Taylor and Francesca Kirby.”
Looking to the future
Stoney, who formed part of the England sides that went out in the quarter-finals at the 2007 and 2011 FIFA World Cups, believes they are getting to grips with the problems that led to those two eliminations. “We’ve got enough players to rotate the squad now and we’ve got the mental strength you need to tackle the knockout phase of a World Cup.”
While she is filled with excitement at the prospect of her third world finals, she is understandably nervous about what might transpire when her contracts with Arsenal and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) expire at the end of this year. The first woman to sit on the PFA’s management committee, Stoney is her family’s sole wage-earner.
“I’m trying to get things sorted out,” she said of her future plans. “I’m taking my coaching certificate and I’ll have my badge in November. I want to stay in football. It’s not a job but a passion for me, though obviously my main concern is my family’s well-being.”
The fearless Stoney can be expected to come up with a solution, just as she has done time and again over the last 20 years, during which time she has gone from subsidising her career to making a living from it and has also become an example to many in revealing her sexuality and raising a family with her partner.
The world is changing, as is women’s football, thanks to the likes of the indefatigable Casey Stoney.