Spurs Ladies captain Jenna Schillaci on three cup finals, life as a women’s footballer, and her love of THFC

Tottenham Hotspur Ladies v Charlton Athletic WFC: FA WPL South

She’s one of our own: Spurs Ladies captain Jenna Schillaci. Photo by Getty Images

In what is shaping to be a season to remember for Tottenham Hotspur, the feel-good factor isn’t limited to Mauricio Pochettino’s title chasers. Our women’s team also face a crucial month, one which offers the chance of glory.

In the weeks ahead, Spurs Ladies have not one, but THREE cup finals. This seemed like a lot of cup finals, so I wanted to find out more.

Spurs Ladies play in the Women’s Premier League Southern Division, the third tier of the women’s football pyramid in England. With just two games to play this season, the team is firmly in mid-table — sitting sixth out of 12th.

But if the league campaign is almost over, it’s a different story in the cups. We play Charlton in the Ryman Cup final on April 14, and Charlton again in the Capital Women’s Cup final on April 27. On May 8, the team travels to Kidderminster for the FA Premier League Cup final against Cardiff.

I got in touch with Jenna Schillaci, the captain of the team and a lifelong Spurs fan, to learn more about the big month ahead, and what life is like as a member of Spurs Ladies. She kindly agreed to answer my questions.

First, some links: You can find out more about Spurs Ladies here, and follow the official account on Twitter here. Ticket details for the Ryman Cup final (kick-off 7.45pm) are here, and you can follow Jenna on Twitter here.

Let’s talk about you. You are captain of Spurs Ladies: how did this come about, first in terms of getting into elite women’s football, and then joining Spurs?

Tottenham Hotspur Players Deliver Christmas Presents to Local Hospitals

Jenna on visit to North Middlesex hospital before Christmas. Photo by Getty Images

I started when I was around six years old. My dad set up a team that consisted of me and all my friends. I went to a Spurs trial in 2000 I think and went into the Ladies team when I was 16, I think I was the youngest at the time. I left to go to university and came back in 2009 when Karen (Hills, the manager) joined and have been here ever since. Three years ago I was made captain which is something I’m very proud of.

You play centre back and left back. You’re basically Jan Vertonghen, right? Tell me about your strengths as a player, and heaven forbid, any weaknesses?

I think I read the game well and have a good understanding of the game. I’m calm on the ball. My only weakness is I guess I’m getting a bit older and my hamstrings aren’t quite what they were!

From you bio, it is clear you are a proper Spurs fan. When did it start, who is your favourite player, and how often do you get to White Hart Lane?

I’ve grown up in a Spurs-mad family. My mum lived in Tottenham when she moved over from Ireland. I had a season ticket for six years when I was younger and sat in the Paxton Road behind the goal. My favourite player has to be David Ginola.

Spurs Ladies are in the Premier League Southern Division: for those who don’t know, where exactly is this in the women’s football pyramid?

So the Premier League Southern Division is the highest tier in the winter game. It’s been a progression for Spurs Ladies, when I first joined in 2000 we were in the Greater London League. We got promotion in 2012 and since then we’ve just been building and getting stronger and now we are a well established club in our league.

Looking at the league standings, Spurs are firmly in mid-table. How do you view the campaign? The record shows nine wins, eight losses and just one draw — is consistency an issue?

This season we have been playing some of the best football I’ve known since being here but we’ve dropped points against the teams above us just by odd goals which is something we want to work on. It’s not due to being inferior, it’s just small details we’ve been punished for against the bigger teams and we are looking to work on that.

In the cup competitions, it is a different story. We’re in not one, but three, cup finals — the Ryman Cup, the Capital Women’s Cup and the FA Premier League Cup. Tell us about these competitions: is one “bigger” than the others? And how big an achievement would it be to win them? Feel free to give the games a plug….

It’s an amazing achievement. The main competition that stuck out at the start of the season was the one we have just got through in, the FA Premier League Cup. We find out who we are playing this weekend but the final will be on May 8 at Kidderminster. (Update: we play Cardiff)

The Ryman Cup we were in last year against Charlton and have them again this year. Unfortunately we lost last year in extra time and that’s something we want to put right this season. It’s on April 14 at Cheshunt.

The Capital Women’s Cup — again we have Charlton! That is on the April 27 at Wingate & Finchley.

It would be amazing to come away with some silverware from those games and it would be great to have as much support as possible.

Let’s talk about life as a women’s football player. Spurs Ladies are not professional: how do you balance your work and sporting commitments?

We aren’t professional. We all have full-time jobs and there’s a few students. We fit the training in three nights a week around it. We all mainly do it for the love of the game and we have a great group, there’s a family feel to the club. It doesn’t feel like making an effort as we enjoy it so much and it’s worth it when we get three points. It’s a big commitment but definitely worth it.

How often do you train, and are you finding the training is becoming more demanding as more focus is placed on the women’s game?

We have a certain style of play with lots of pace going forwards. Our forward line would scare anyone on their day. The training is tough but it pays off. This season is the first we’ve done three nights a week, it’s more demanding but it’s paying off.

How much interaction do you have with the men’s team? Is there ever the opportunity to train together, or spend time together?

We see them on appearances with things like the hospital visits at Christmas time. They all seem really nice. Sometimes we watch them train and they are always very welcoming.

How do Spurs Ladies go about finding players?

We have trials at the start of every year. There’s a circuit of players in our League and Karen has a great knowledge and network of contacts when it comes to finding new players.

Talk me through the matchday experience. Where are the games played? How many people attend? Do you feel interest is rising? And do you ever get the chance to play at White Hart Lane?

We play our games at Cheshunt FC and they are 2pm kick-offs on a Sunday. The attendance can vary but this year we’ve seen a big rise and are grateful for the support of the main Club in helping with that. The big games we can get over 200, which is great. We’ve also noticed a huge rise in our social media followings from fans who follow the Men’s team. We haven’t played at White Hart Lane yet but do train at the Training Centre now, which is a great experience.

Thanks to Jenna for taking the time to answer my questions. Please do follow Spurs Ladies and Jenna on Twitter for all the latest in this crucial month. And while you are at it, give me a follow as well.

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