‘Until I played for England I would have chips for lunch’: Sue Smith discusses the difference between women’s football now compared to ten years ago

Sue Smith
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Women's football in the UK has come on leaps and bounds in the past decade, with professionalism improving drastically, as former England international Sue Smith can attest.

Smith's career spanned 22 years, playing at Tranmere Rovers, Leeds United, Lincoln Ladies and Doncaster Rovers Belles. She also turned out 93 times for England between 1997 and 2012, scoring 16 goals after making her debut at 17-years-old. 

The former forward grew up on Merseyside, and while ten years might not sound like a long time, Smith explains exclusively to FourFourTwo that the changes in women's football in this country have been immeasurable. 

"There are now six or seven girls’ teams in the area I grew up in, and it’s so good that there are genuine opportunities," Smith tells FFT. "There are loads of great academies and, aside from training, the girls are also being taught to look after themselves better than we were.

"We didn’t receive good nutritional advice. Until I played for England, I would have chips for my lunch."

Sue Smith England

Smith believes the change in women's football has been massive since she stopped playing (Image credit: Getty Images)

In May 2009, the FA awarded Smith and 16 other female footballers central contracts, a momentous moment for the women's game. Allowing players to focus full-time on football, rather than trying to juggle a part-time job with training and playing, the central contracts has helped progress the sport into what it is today.

"Proper professional contracts made a big difference," Smith explains. "Before, we’d work as coaches or help with clubs’ laundry, just to get paid and be around football full-time; while those first contracts weren’t a great deal of money, they meant you could focus on football. 

"No more long days working – you could train for four hours and have a little more time off. After that, we were tested all of the time and you could see that we were getting fitter, faster, stronger, because we had more time to focus on those aspects.

"Specialist coaches, fitness trainers and dieticians came in to take our games to the next level. The USA and Germany were physically stronger as well as technically better than us – things are so different now."

That all came to fruition last summer, when the England women's team won Euro 2022, the first-ever major tournament win for the team. 

Smith has since become a pundit for Sky Sports, offering insight on both the Premier League and Women's Super League. She worked at Euro 2022, too, and managed to make it into the squad's celebrations after their historic win, revealing who was the last Lioness standing. 

"Chloe Kelly was last on the dancefloor and there are a few dancers in that squad! 

"After tournaments, when you’ve been so strict for such a long time with no drinking throughout the competition, you’ve earned a few glasses of wine or gin and tonics. I stupidly agreed to a 7am shift working for Sky the next morning. I hadn’t slept much! I looked a bit tired, but we don’t win the Euros often."

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.