Elle-Mae Simpson Interview

31st May 2020

By George Brereton

“My biggest target is to be able to break into and really establish myself into the first team, there’s certainly a lot of competition for places but I have faith in my ability
Elle-Mae Simpson

At just the tender age of 17, Elle-Mae Simpson has enjoyed a breakout season in the senior side during the tail end of the 2019/20 campaign, becoming a starter in then-manager Alex Cheal’s First Team in the heart of the defence for Cheltenham Town Ladies.

Following a succession of impressive performances for the Reserve team, Simpson was included in the First Team squad for the first time away to Poole Town Ladies in early January, a game which The Robinesses won 2-1. Simpson revealed she felt incredibly tense beforehand.

“I remember feeling very nervous on the way, but I just tend to just listen to music to try and take my mind off it since that’s what I do before a game anyway.

“It was a nice experience to go up there, to watch the game, and be involved with the warmup and get a taste of the quality of the First Team”.

The young centre-back would go on to make her First Team debut against Buckland Athletic in February, a team who proved to be a real bogey side for The Robinesses the previous season.

Despite missing several key players, Simpson stepped up to partner Sammy Hallsworth helping Cheltenham to a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory at the Big Local Stadium; Abby Bevan’s first half strike the only goal of the game. Simpson not looking out of place at a higher level, aiding her side to an invaluable clean sheet, nullifying the threat of Vanessa Casey’s side.

Reminiscing on her debut, Simpson thoroughly enjoyed the encounter, despite feeling the slightly nervous.

“Beforehand I was very nervous because, well I tend to get nervous anyway but as it was my first game for the First Team, I felt it a lot more,” Simpson explains.

“It was a big transition in level, but I found the game really enjoyable and who I was playing with made it easier. When I grew into the game and the nerves began to settle, I felt more confident in my ability”

Courtesy of Will Luker

In the next game, with Cheltenham at home to Swindon, Simpson was once again named on the bench.

Despite admitting to feeling slightly disappointed at being left out of the starting XI again, she revealed this merely spurred her on further to force herself into consideration for a starting position in defence.

“It just motivated me more because I knew that they were still thinking about me and had me in mind, so it just made me more determined to focus on my game and break into the first team.

“Obviously, everyone gets a little disappointed when they aren’t involved but it’s how you react to it and how you work afterwards.”

Simpson would return to The Robinesses’ starting line-up for what would be their final game of the season, a 3-1 victory against Maidenhead United, once again producing a performance full of quality and maturity, as she constantly denied the Maidenhead attackers to keep them to only one goal.

The promising young centre back revealed she relished her time on the field, believing her strengths allowed her to cope with the physical threat posed by Maidenhead .

“I found it a really enjoyable match, I like playing against physical teams because it allows me to use my strength aswell.

“If you have a player pushing or going against you, you feel as you can do it back and it’s not seen as a foul, it’s just seen as a good, fair match. A physical battle.”

Making the step up to the First Team from the Reserves at such a young age, Simpson cited the primary difference between the two levels was the quality of players, highlighting how a single defensive mistake can prove fateful.

It is a lot more fast paced and intense [at first team level]

“If you make a mistake you know it is going to cost straightaway, whereas with the youth team you can make a mistake or play a dodgy pass and it may not matter as much as it’s easier to recover.”

Away from the football pitch, Simpson is also embarking in the final year of her studies at Hartpury College. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, Simpson has had to undertake her remaining studies remotely, something which she has not found straightforward.

“We’re having to do everything online, but we don’t have any Zoom calls or lessons or anything like that, we’re just getting emails of the work and PowerPoints on our work and lectures.

“I find it much more difficult than being in lessons but there’s not much else we can do so we’ve just got to get on with it and do what we can.”

Courtesy of Will Luker

Coming into the senior set-up, Simpson praised her teammates for helping her settle into her new environments. She particularly credits her centre-back partner Sammy Hallsworth as being hugely influential and supportive, revealing Sammy often helps her keep her composure after making mistakes during games.

“Sammy has been excellent. She’s really helped a lot, especially when I lose my head. She tells me to put it behind me and focus on the game.

“I’ve learned to take more time on the ball, whereas before I just used to rush and get rid of it out of the danger area but now I tend to think more, take my time and look for the correct pass”.

Besides Hallsworth, Simpson also cites former manager Alex Cheal as being incredibly supportive, feeling he has really helped her improve her self-belief and take her game to the next level.

“He’s absolutely lovely, he’s a brilliant coach and he’s helped an awful lot with my confidence. Before, I would play but I would never be particularly confident in my ability, but he’s really helped me to develop my mindset and develop my game”.

Discussing whether she believes The Robinesses are capable of securing promotion next season, Simpson strongly believes they are more than able, highlighting the excellent quality within their squad.

“Definitely, if everyone keeps their heads. With the excellent quality we have in our squad, I believe we have a real chance of securing promotion”

Discussing her ambitions ahead of next season, Simpson insists she is mainly focusing on improving her own game.

“I’d love to just be able to develop more as a player, be able to concentrate on improving my game and keep my head and not get annoyed at myself as much”.

However, Simpson reveals she is also targeting a spot within Cheltenham’s first choice XI, despite fierce competition from the likes of Hallsworth, Mai Butler, vice-captain Cerys Dolloway and the returning Sam Morris.

“My biggest target is to be able to break into and really establish myself into the First Team, there’s certainly a lot of competition for places but I have faith in my ability and think if I continue to work hard and focus on my game then I can really put myself in contention.”

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