Once upon a time, Everton captain Lucy Graham, now 23, was not scoring the winner in front of 23,500 at Anfield but was without an agent and working in Tesco to supplement her nascent football career. Graham was an assistant shopper - the one who, when “people order their groceries online, goes around and collects it all for them”.
Specifically, she was responsible for the substitutions when products were out of stock. “They do have some straight swaps,” she explains. “Say they wanted a certain flavour of yoghurt, I would have to give them another kind, very similar, and hope they liked it. If they order something premium brand range, and I swapped it in for a basic - that’s a bit different. You need to find the bit in between.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appGraham is now among a handful of the Scotland talent pool – including Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert, Arsenal’s Lisa Evans, Kim Little and Jennifer Beattie, and Manchester City’s Caroline Weir - now plying their trade in the Women’s Super League, but back then there was a feeling that Scotland was barely on the radar for most clubs and Graham, in a flurry of phonecalls and Google searches, had to find her own agent.
“When I was in Scotland, you didn’t really need one,” she says. “I think it’s unfortunate for a lot of Scottish girls. They’re kind of looking for the fairytale, that somebody’s going to come along and phone them up and chat at their door and say, ‘We want you.’ I was the one who sought some advice to try and get myself a professional contract. England is obviously notorious for producing great young players - they didn’t necessarily have to come up to Scotland. Sometimes you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and do it yourself. Sometimes it doesn’t just come along.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appGraham has warm memories of the veritable Supermarket Sweep that occupied her days from 6am until noon, given that the point of the job was to support, financially, two training sessions a day. The first was at a sports institute supporting Scotland national team players - “sessions so you’re essentially training at the same level and number of hours as a professional athlete” - from 3pm until 4pm. Then there would be the hour and a half drive to Edinburgh for her club session, arriving home at 9pm to do it all again. “Busy, and I think that’s why it wasn’t sustainable for long,” Graham says. “I was burning the wick at both ends.”
She trialled successfully at Bristol, driven by the spell she spent, aged 17, abroad in Sweden, playing professionally at Mallbackens, and the glimpse into “what was out there”. Last summer, she signed at Everton, who finished second bottom of the WSL last season but are currently fifth, having not only already beaten their points total from all of last year but also more than doubled their clean sheet total. Last season, they failed to score in 41 per cent of games; this year, just nine.
“In training, there are people who went through that experience and they’re like-” Graham narrows her eyes determinedly - “‘Not this year. This is not happening. We’re changing for the good.’ When I saw them down at the bottom of the table, I kind of wanted to be one of those players that was going to get them back up to where they should actually be.”
Graham speaks from Everton’s Finch Farm training complex as Richarlison and Fabian Delph mill about by reception, the club’s two senior teams sharing the space. “It’s just the norm,” Graham says. “Andre Gomez was just back from his injury and he came in and said good morning to us.”
They will be sharing Goodison Park, too, later this month for the stadium’s first-ever WSL Merseyside derby, Graham’s long-distance drive from well outside the area - allied to a fumble from Liverpool goalkeeper Anke Preuss - the difference in their previous meeting. A childhood Liverpool fan, Graham would replicate Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso’s long passes.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appShe will draw on her Anfield experience in a week’s time. “It’s funny to think back because a lot of us had never been in that situation before. When I was feeling nervous or anxious or excited, I didn’t know what was right or wrong. Should I be feeling this? Is it going to get in the way? I wouldn’t say you treat it differently from any other game in terms of the process - [but] how do you personally deal with all those external factors?”