Impetus is delighted to announce the latest of our player sponsorships and club partnership relationships with FA Women’s National League Division One North side Chorley Women. The deal sees Impetus sponsor Chorley’s Lisa Topping, who played top flight women’s football for Liverpool at the age of sixteen. In addition, we will run regular features on both Lisa and the wider club to give our readers a taste of what it’s like to be a club and player at a National League level. To launch the sponsorship, Lisa spoke to Ben Gilby about her footballing journey, her influences and what life is like at Chorley.
Speaking about the announcement of our sponsorship with her, Lisa said: “Receiving sponsorship to play football is fantastic. The financial benefits it brings to myself and the club is something so important to the women’s game and Chorley Women, who rely on sponsors to successfully function. This year has been tough financially for people and receiving sponsorship makes things that bit easier. Knowing that someone has faith in you or supports you is a great feeling. I really appreciate Impetus Women’s Football Site sponsoring me!”
Lisa then introduced herself to our readers: “I’m 29 years old and was born in Preston, Lancashire. I grew up five miles down the road in Leyland where I attended Worden High School and Preston College before heading out to Texas, USA for University on a full-ride soccer scholarship. I returned to my home town in December 2016 and continue to live in Lancashire now with my partner and rescue beagle. I have an amazing nuclear family of my sister, mum and dad who are and always have been extremely supportive of me throughout my life and endeavours.”
“Away from football, I work in research, monitoring and evaluation, which I really enjoy. I love statistics and data so it’s a very fitting job. I do like to keep fit away from football training so I do spend some evenings running or doing my own ball workouts in the local park. I have a passion for dogs and animals and have a Lemon Beagle who I rescued from a dog pound in Texas and flew back to the UK. I spend a lot of my weekends and evenings taking her for walks or hikes with my partner and family. Like most people, I’m also a fan of binging Netflix movies and overindulging on chocolate!”
Lisa’s love of playing the game started from an early age: “It all started when I was eight years old during P.E class in primary school. I was the only girl to join in as football was offered to the boys and netball to the girls. I had a brilliant primary school headteacher, Mr D, who always supported my love of football, including allowing us to wear astro-turf trainers to school so that we could play properly at break time!”
Like many players, Lisa’s family played a key part in her development: “My Dad has been central to my football career from giving me extra training and advice to encouraging me to make the step up and take the opportunities that came my way. He encouraged me to go down and join a girls’ team.”
Joining a girls’ team meant that Lisa began to be exposed to the work of coaches: “When I was ten, I had a spell at Penwortham Girls before moving on to play for Euxton Girls FC for a few years. I had great coaches here including Steve Barker who really propelled my love of the game. His daughter, Nicola Barker, also played on my team, and now does an excellent job in coaching at the club. At the same time, I was involved in Blackburn Rovers’ Centre of Excellence at U14 and U16s age levels. These required trials to get in. My Dad told me to wear something that made me stand out, so I rocked up with a bright yellow Cameroon National Team football shirt which obviously caught their eye as I was successful in getting selected for the sixteen person squad. At fifteen, I left Euxton Girls and signed for the first Blackburn Rovers Ladies U16s team.”
Lisa had some memorable moments when she moved on to Liverpool. “At sixteen years of age, I played for their first team in the FA Women’s Premier League, which was the top-flight football league at the time. We travelled to play the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, which was a great experience. Here I played with some really experienced players, such as Jo Traynor and Gayle Formston, who had national team experience. They were really welcoming, and although I was much younger, they made me feel part of the team. I still remember Gayle saying me to me before a game against Chelsea “your lungs will burn, that’s normal – run through it. It will go away.” I now actually use this line with some of our younger players!”
After two years at Liverpool, Lisa moved further afield: “I moved to Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, USA on a soccer scholarship to play and study for my degree. Here, Dewi Hardman was my coach who really helped me to develop my game from left wing to centre midfield. He was a tough coach and demanded quality – but looking back this has only helped me to get better. After playing for four years, I then spent four years coaching in the States whilst studying for my post graduate degree and working.”
Lisa returned to England in December 2016. “I had a short spell at AFC Fylde Women for the second half of the season. I had lost some desire to play but my Dad said to give another team a go and see if that passion returned. So, for the 2017-2018 season I signed for Chorley Women and four years later I’m still here! There are so many influential people at Chorley, one being Janet Mitchell our previous captain and current Chair. The passion she and her family have for the sport and the club is second to none and this really cascades down to the management and players involved in the club.”
I asked Lisa to tell us more about why she feels Chorley Women are such a special club: “It is a great club to be part of, as a player, as a coach, as a supporter. There is a special vibe at this club that makes it a fantastic and supportive place to be. The team always get on so well on and off the pitch, which is so important, and there is a real focus on family. We have annual social and fundraising events that really build that sense of community and teamwork.”
“Playing at Chorley is fun yet focused where development of players is key. The coaching is fantastic where there is a real emphasis on learning and improvement. I feel that I learn something and improve every training session, which is so important. We have the ethos of ‘one club’ where a clear progression pathway is in place. This is vital for the longevity of the club. In terms of team-mates, Chorley Women have the best group of girls. There is never a dull moment on the training pitch or in the changing rooms and everyone is extremely welcoming, supportive and positive. Although small, in relation to other clubs, Chorley Women have big ambitions. We want to be a force to be reckoned with in the FA Women’s National League as well as producing quality and successful players along the way. The pathway we have in place gives us the opportunity to really help young players move through the footballing system in a positive and well-coached environment.”
We then touched on some of the challenges that Lisa has faced on and off the pitch throughout her career: “The biggest challenge I faced as a footballer was juggling working, studying and training. When I was a student-athlete in the States, the demand across all of these domains was extremely intense. Plus, doing this whilst being alone at eighteen years of age, in a different country, without your family was tremendously hard. I remember being awake at 5.15am for two hours of morning training before a full class schedule, ending with mandatory study hall, volunteering and coaching children. It was hard, but looking back I gained some valuable life lessons and built a ton of resiliency.”
Coronavirus restrictions have brought their own unique difficulties: “It’s been tough both on and off the pitch. Personally, off the pitch it has been a real struggle not seeing family as often as usual, as we are really close. But, football has always been my outlet in stressful situations so getting to be part of Chorley Women, with supportive managers and amazing teammates, makes Covid frustrations a little easier. Off the pitch, there has been struggles with long gaps with no training or playing games. It’s really hard to get on a good run when this happens as just as you think things are starting to get going it suddenly stops again. Our management team at Chorley have been really good about organising fitness competitions and virtual sessions to keep team moral and fitness high, which has been really beneficial.”
The conversation then moved on to matters off of the pitch – Lisa’s own footballing heroes: “They not world-famous. They are my Dad and Grandad – Steve and Derek Topping, who both had successful careers in the sport as well as supporting me fully with mine. Without them, I would never have had such a successful and exciting career in football. Since I was five years old I would spend my Saturdays stood with my Grandad on the side line watching my Dad play. When my passion for football exploded, my Dad gave up playing to allow me to pursue my career. He also spent endless evenings and weekends kicking the ball around with me on the local park, helping me get better. Both my Dad and Grandad still ring me up before a game to give me advice and motivate me and they are both on the side lines twenty years later.”
We concluded our chat by looking to the future and Lisa’s aspirations for the next few years of her career: “I want to play and enjoy the game for as long as I can. I’ve seen players have the game they love snatched away from them too soon due to injury. I want to continue to be a driving force for Chorley Women and support the young talent that we have coming through. In five years time I’d love to still be playing with Chorley Women and competing in the FA Women’s National League. When my playing time is up, I want to remain involved in the game possibly in a coaching capacity where I can continue to support the positive progression of the women’s game.”
Impetus will be catching up with Lisa each month to find out how things are going on. We will also be carrying features on the wider club at Chorley. To find out more about the Lancashire side, we published an interview with Chorley Chairwoman Janet Mitchell in October. It can be viewed here.
To find out more about our club partnership and player sponsorship deals with various grassroots women’s football clubs, click here.