For Coventry United's newest signing Hayley Crackle, her love of football began at a young age. The life-long Aston Villa fan who learnt her skills knocking a ball about in the garden will now wear the red and green colours of Coventry United this season.
Looking back on her time at Aston Villa, the twenty-four-year-old is undoubtedly proud, describing playing for a club you've supported since birth' as 'very special.'
"I never for one second thought I would put on a shirt and represent the club, so it's something my family and I are very proud of," said Crackle.
Describing the people she met as the highlight of her fifteen years at Aston Villa, she explains: "I've got so many lifelong friendships that have developed from that club. People who are still there now and some who are no longer there."
The Solihull-born footballer also made a significant impact on the wider Aston Villa community, taking on the role of Disability Ambassador.
"This was a special role for me. I have a few clients with disabilities in my job role, and I love working with them. They are often reminded of the things they can't do as opposed to emphasising what they can do. So, I loved seeing so many people play at the Villa sessions, and I enjoyed helping promote this."
Hayley was also the recipient of the prestigious Community Player of the Year 2018/2019 award, having been recognised for all the community work that she did during her time at the club.
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"I loved every one of the community events that I attended, and I didn't do it to receive an award. I had the pleasure of meeting so many inspiring adults and children each week, and it just reminded me of how lucky I am to be playing the sport I love and to be able to share my experiences with other people."
She undoubtedly made an impact on Aston Villa, and will no doubt do the same in her new venture at Coventry United.
Hayley said: "I'm feeling very optimistic about the new season. I love being at Coventry already. They are a great group of girls, and staff who will do absolutely anything to help this team progress. With the club getting promoted from the National League last year people have already written us off, and I can't wait to prove a few people wrong. There's a lot of talent and desire in this group!"
Hayley's new football career has not been as smooth as she would have hoped, having come back from a season-long injury last year.
However, off the pitch, Hayley has excellent expertise in strength and conditioning, thanks to her Masters degree.
She explained: "My degrees in Sports Therapy and Strength and Conditioning help me in my football career. I know what recovery I need to do, what I need to focus on in training sessions and I follow a strict eating regime at the minute, all of which I learnt at university. I've never felt in better shape than I do now."
Looking forward, Hayley hopes to keep playing football to the best of her ability, while inspiring other young female footballers to pursue their ambitions.
"I think if I can keep pushing each day to be the best player that I can be, this will rub off on young footballers when they come to watch games. They see a professional set up, and a group of people who are fighting for each other on the pitch and this will inspire them to do the same."
Hayley also believes that "taking time to talk to young fans after games massively helps to inspire them, and this is something that cannot always be done in the men's game."
Hayley will be playing for Coventry United this season, so if you wish to go and talk to her, and gain some advice from a very successful player, head down to Butts Park Arena to watch them this season and give the Coventry girls your support.News Now - Sport News