For Sandy MacIver, professional women’s football was something she was unaware existed until the age of 12.
At the time, she was playing for Crewe, not as a goalkeeper but outfield, and was lucky enough to win a Lionesses team photograph, signed by England icon Rachel Brown-Finnis.
To this day, the photo adorns her bedroom wall at her family home –– a reminder of the player who inspired her to transition from boys to girls football and who formerly sported the same Everton jersey she does now.
“She [Brown-Finnis] was the first player I’d even heard of and looked up to, especially from a goalkeeper point of view as one of England’s greatest keepers,” MacIver told GiveMeSportWomen, in association with athleisure brand Gym + Coffee.
Indeed, the Everton and England shot-stopper has followed in the footsteps of her idol –– representing her country and becoming one of the Toffeees’ most influential players.
Since joining the Merseyside club in 2020, MacIver has already reached an FA Cup final and helped her side achieve a fifth-place finish last year.
This season, however, Everton currently sit 10th in the Women’s Super League and MacIver admitted the campaign has been “underwhelming” for the most part.
“I think we were very bold and brave in pre-season with what we wanted our goals to be,” she reflected. “We brought in a lot of quality players, but I think looking back now it was always going to be a tall order, just because you don’t know how all those players are going to fit into the team. A lot of the players came from outside the WSL, and you don’t really know how players are going to react in a new league and a new country.”
MacIver explained that teams like Everton, who are striving to compete with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, feel obligated to be highly active in the transfer market in order to try and bridge the gap.
“I think if you look at Chelsea, for example. They’re at the stage now where they’ve got such a top quality squad, that they only really need to bring in one or two players to improve each year.”
While a high turnover of players can be successful in some instances, it may also take a period of transition for the effects to materialise. For Everton, this adaptation stage has been disrupted by having multiple managers in a single season.
First, Willie Kirk departed, before France’s Jean-Luc Vasser lasted just six games. Danish manager Brian Sørensen will take charge as of next season, yet MacIver conceded the manager situation at the club has been somewhat disruptive.
“It’s probably not ideal that we’re on our third manager now in less than a year,” she said. “Because he’s [Sørensen] yet to come in, we don’t really know the kind of style he wants to play. Hopefully, he can bring a bit of stability, which I think we’re desperate for after this season.”
Away from domestic football, MacIver also spoke openly and honestly about her England career. The 23-year-old described playing for her country as “one of [her] dreams” and stated she was “very proud” to make her debut last year, which came in a 6-0 win against Northern Ireland.
MacIver is one of many talented and emerging English goalkeepers, with the likes of Ellie Roebuck and Hannah Hampton both a part of the Lionesses setup. Roebuck, in particular, is someone the Everton star has constantly competed with over the years, and MacIver emphasised the fierce competition for England’s number one goalkeeper spot has kept her motivated to improve.
“I definitely think with Hannah [Hampton] and Ellie [Roebuck], we’ll be competing for spots in the England squad for many years to come. I do think for me, having that competition is important because you never want to feel comfortable, whether for club or country and I think they have helped me and will continue to push me [to get better].”
Despite missing out on the most recent England squad, MacIver had high praise for head-coach Sarina Wiegman and the direction she’s taken the team. The Everton star has spoken with Wiegman at previous camps and still has hopes of a call-up for this summer’s European Championships.
I’ve definitely not given up on trying to get into that Euro  squad. Potentially at this point, it’s probably not as realistic as I’d have liked it to be, but you’ve always got to be prepared.
Waiting patiently is something already familiar to MacIver, given she was a reserve for Team GB at the Olympics in Tokyo last year. When the news broke that squads were being expanded and reserve players where permitted to play, she was “over the moon”, though the experience turned out to be “a bit of a weird one” because of Covid-19 related restrictions.
“When we got to the first hotel we couldn’t leave. You couldn’t just go for a walk, which I think later on in the tournament got quite difficult,” she stressed. “I think the first two group games were in a dome and so the girls that played in the first two games –– the only time they were actually physically outside is when they stepped out of the hotel onto the team bus.”
Being a part of the Olympics is not the only career highlight MacIver can look back on fondly. At the 2018 U20 World Cup, the goalkeeper won the Golden Glove, while in the 2020 FA Cup final, she was awarded the Player of the Match award. However, nothing quite compares to signing her first professional contract two years ago.
“I’d honestly say the proudest moment for me was signing my first contract with Everton. Being away in America [on a football scholarship at Clemson] for so long, I kind of felt out of the picture, and so to get to the point of signing a contract was very special.”
Away from playing, MacIver is now an ambassador for Ireland’s largest and fastest-growing athleisure brand Gym + Coffee.
Founded in 2017, the company aims to provide clothing to a community of people focused on socialising around exercise.
Speaking on what makes Gym + Coffee so unique and why she’s excited to partner with the brand, MacIver said: “I think the clothes that they have a really top quality and I really like that aspect of things.
Say Hello to our newest Ambassadors🔥— Gym+Coffee (@gympluscoffee) March 1, 2022
On the cusp of International Women’s Day, meet our newest MLR Athlete Ambassadors: 7 incredible women taking over the UK in cricket + football.@Tammy_Beaumont @RachelCorsie14@carlahumphrey_ @SandyMacIver_ @Danni_Wyatt @dunkleysophia pic.twitter.com/WQ0hNaol8e
“But they also have that ethos there. The brand itself is so powerful. It’s so impactful. Taking myself and the other ambassadors across women’s football and cricket just shows you how much they want to promote women’s sports.
“For me, personally, they do a lot of work in the communities, they do a lot of work with the environment. And I think what I like so much about them is they’re not just an athleisure brand, they don’t just make the clothes and that’s it. there’s so much more to the brand.”
Other female Britsh athletes working with the brand include England cricket stars Tammy Beaumont, Sophia Dunkley and Danni Wyatt. MacIver is yet to have the chance to meet some of her fellow ambassadors, but is excited to meet up with them in the near future.
“It’s always interesting to know what life’s like as a professional cricketer. For example, how does that differ from my working day?
“Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to meet yet. Hopefully soon, all of us that are based in England will be able to do something. So I’m really looking forward to that.”