Evie Nebbitt: “Aspiring To Be The Best I Can”

In the latest of our series of interviews with Impetus-sponsored players, Evie Nebbitt from tier five London & South-East Regional Premier side Saltdean United spoke to Ben Gilby about her footballing journey, being Sutton United’s youngest-ever captain, and life in Sussex (10/11/22).

Above: Evie Nebbitt showing her joy after a goal for Saltdean United. Photo: Simon Roe. Supplied by: Evie Nebbitt.

Evie Nebbitt is in her first season playing tier five football having made the move from hometown club Sutton United to Saltdean United ahead of this season as she moved to the area to start university.

Nebbitt’s journey to her current position at the Sussex-based club began at a young age as the defender reveals: “I started playing football when I was around eight-years-old after watching my older sister play. She made it look fun and exciting, and it compelled me to have a go. I always used to play for the boys’ teams in primary school before being introduced to woman’s football just before I started high school playing for my local club Carshalton Athletic. 

“I then trialed and got into Charlton Athletic at the age of 13 and played academy football for four years learning how to play any position along the back creating diversity in the way I played. It was challenging and pushed me to become a strong version of myself and will forever be grateful for the coaching staff and my teammates.

Above: Evie in action for Charlton Athletic. Photo supplied by: Evie Nebbitt.

“During this time, I also played football for Surrey county and Sutton schools where I was a part of the team that won the London Youth Games in 2017. I also played for my high-school girls’ team in which we won the National Cup with the final being held at the Madejski Stadium, home of Reading FC. This was an amazing experience for a group of young girls, and to top it off I scored two goals which made the day even better.

“At the age of 16, I made the decision to join Sutton United where I went straight into first-team football. I was thrown in the deep end and I wouldn’t have preferred it any other way as I believe it helped me build confidence and made me physically stronger as I was playing against and with older and more experienced players.

“After moving to the University of Sussex, I made the decision to look for a new club in order to play more regularly and locally. I recently signed for Saltdean where I am just finding my feet. All the coaching staff and players have made me feel welcomed and I’m feeling positive and optimistic about this season.”

The defender describes herself as being “a diverse player. I can adapt to play any defensive position when needs be. I also like to push up the pitch too when I play full-back and get involved with the attacking play. I would still describe myself as a young player meaning I am still learning and finding my way.”

Evie’s development from a child finding her feet in the game to her position as a regular starter in tier five is down to a hugely important group of people. “I have been very lucky with all the support I have received through my footballing career so far,” she recognised.

Above: Evie has had the support of her parents from the earliest days – as shown here when she was a youngster. Photo supplied by: Evie Nebbitt.

“Firstly, I have to mention my family such as my parents always taking time out of their days to drive me anywhere for football and supporting me from the sidelines pushing me to do my best, and my brother and sister for encouraging me and inspiring me to get involved with the game.

“I have had many coaches over the years. My real development as a player started at Charlton Athletic when I was being trained by members of the women’s first team at the time. At age 14, that was really inspiring for me and engorged me to learn and aspire to be where they were.

That support network combined with Evie’s own determination has helped her to overcome many challenges on the way. The most prominent barriers that she has faced are very familiar to many female players.

“I think every young female footballer has experienced the situation at least once when she is growing up is someone telling you ‘you can’t do it.’ I started out playing in boys’ teams and I would get told that it wasn’t ‘normal’. From a young age, I have aspired to be the best I can be to prove others wrong.

Evie Nebbitt, Saltdean United.

After her time at Charlton Athletic, Evie returned closer to home to South-West London to join Sutton United, a club who were making rapid progress up the leagues, and indeed this season find themselves as equals to Saltdean United in tier five. The young defender looks back at her time at Gander Green Lane with happiness.

“At Sutton, many changes were made in order to succeed. The formation was changed to a back five with wing backs to fit the team’s playing style which continues to be successful to this day. My manager at the time always had an eye out for new players or coaching staff to help move the team forward. 

“One of the great things about Sutton is their youth teams. Players are given the chance to play up and learn from older players and develop to hopefully one day play in the first team.”

One of Evie’s fondest memories of being at the U’s is being given the armband and becoming as a result the club’s youngest-ever captain.

“When I was first told I was going to captain the side, I thought my manager was joking. I was very surprised as there were much older players on the team at the time and wasn’t sure why he picked me. To walk out of the changing room with the girls and support them on the pitch as their captain built my confidence and gave me reassurance in myself that I can be a leader. I am most grateful to be given that experience and to show people what I’m made of.”

During the summer a planned move to University in Sussex led Evie to depart from Sutton and join Saltdean United. Whilst it’s still early days for her at the club, she is enjoying the challenge.

Above: Evie in action for Sutton United where she was the club’s youngest captain. Photo: Paul Loughlin. Supplied by: Evie Nebbitt.

“Everyone down at Saltdean has been great. My coaches Zak (Dove) and Tom (Saunters) have been pushing everyone to be the best version of themselves on the pitch and always take the time to help me individually to improve my performance. They are also firm and if we aren’t playing how they know we can they will tell us and encourage us to step it up. I am one of quite a few new players this season however the team has grown so much already and I am feeling positive about what’s to come.

“The atmosphere before a game is great as we have the music on and some of the girls dancing and singing. I know that the girls would be there for me on my best days and my worst days. 

Saltdean United were talked up last season by some observers of the London & South-East Regional Premier as being potential champions, but with injuries decimating the squad at times, the campaign never really got going. Evie points out how the squad is focussed on reaching their potential this time round.

“Everyone worked so hard during pre-season. There are lots of new signings including older, more experienced players and also younger, more impressionable players. Everyone is learning from each other and is helping one another improve. We are learning from each week’s performance and are putting in the effort in training to correct our past mistakes.”

In terms of goal setting for the campaign ahead, the young defender is keen to develop herself both as a person and as a footballer.

“My personal aim is to always listen and learn. I am always keen to improve myself as a player and a person in order to perform the best I can. As a team, I think our aim is to get stronger together and always be improving. Like anyone who plays, we want to he winning and so I believe our aim is to work hard in order to do that. 

“But most importantly the overall aim is to enjoy the game like we always have and remind ourselves why we play.”

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