Carly Telford was going to landscape her garden this summer. She’s not going to anymore. Instead she’s going to the Olympic Games.
“It’s a blessing in disguise, Covid,” says England and Team GB goalkeeper Telford as she tells EnglandFootball.org about whether she was due to go on holiday this summer. “At the end of the day, I don’t think many of us had plans this summer due to Covid.”
The 33-year-old has spent her entire career at the highest level, representing Sunderland, Notts County and current club Chelsea amongst others. Playing football is a job with an increasingly short off-season. Telford is therefore not used to spending summer out of the limelight.Embed from Getty Images
“My plans were just to go home and see my family. It sounds very boring, but my garden was getting landscaped, so I was going to be all over that! That’s about as exciting as life is getting. My partner plays cricket for England and she’d be away most of the summer anyway. So I was probably going to be a bit of a lone-ranger and just spend time with my family. I didn’t have huge plans. I haven’t had a big summer off for a long time, so I was a little bit exciting for that.
“But if you’d said to me ‘Would you like to have a summer at home or have a summer in Tokyo?’, I think I would have bitten your hand off at Tokyo. So plans for my garden landscaping might have to wait a little bit longer. I’m sure it can, if I’m going to be in an Olympics.”
Telford was called in to the squad to replace the injured Karen Bardsley, who spent a year-and-a-half on the side-lines following an injury she sustained at the 2019 World Cup on England duty. It was that injury to Bardsley that allowed Telford the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start a World Cup semi-final for her nation. She now replaces Bardsley again — this time in the Team GB squad heading to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.Embed from Getty Images
“It was a whirlwind. Of course we’re going to give KB [Karen Bardsley] the most amount of time to see whether she can make it to these Olympics. But I was always going to be at the Lionesses [training] camp [in June] and this camp [with Team GB] just in case Ellie [Roebuck] didn’t make it. So those things didn’t change. But as far as these next four to six weeks go, I am temporarily busy. Out of office, they may say.”
Telford may not get on the pitch in Tokyo — she travels as back-up to Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck — but looks forward to potentially playing in front of a local crowd in Japan. She believes the return of fans to football stadiums signals the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
“For female football, we unfortunately missed the cut-off for eventually letting crowds into the stadiums [in England] towards the end of our season. And then [we] luckily got some crows in, which is really nice to see. You can just see the atmosphere changed; the way the players played changed. It’s not like you go out there with fans and ‘all of a sudden I need to perform and put on a show’. But you can’t take away how much we missed fans as footballers or as sportspeople in general.Embed from Getty Images
“Hopefully, when we get to Tokyo, there will be some fans. We don’t know yet whether that will be possible. But you just look at the [men’s] Euros — the way it has moved around Europe and different stadiums and different amounts of fans, and what energy that’s brought to the stadiums. Hopefully with the Euros and the Olympics there can finally be some lines drawn. It won’t be like that all over the world — we know that — because everyone’s at different stages.
“Hopefully in the UK we’re at stage when most of the population is vaccinated,” Telford says to EnglandFootball.org. “Thankfully the vaccines look like, regardless of what strain might be entering the country, it’s doing a really good job of holding them back with fatalities and hospitalisations. Cases might go up and down with new variants, but for us it’s about can we stop being dying and can we stop being getting really sick? Can we get people feeling like life is pretty normal again? [Things feel normal again when] you’re a sports fan going to stadiums.”Embed from Getty Images
Ahead of her first chance to represent the United Kingdom, Telford welcomes the chance to put smiles back on the faces of football fans. Team GB’s women’s football team hope to do just that next month.
“For us, we like to see crowds. Playing the sport we love and seeing happy faces: that’s all we want to see. If the Olympics can be part of that, whether that’s at a distance or at a stadium, then that’s a big tick for us.”