Natasha Harding Interview

Natasha Harding Interview

Natasha Harding is one of the latest additions to the Concave family and with over 50 caps for the Welsh international squad she’s definitely a leader in the women’s game. We caught up with the Liverpool Ladies baller to discuss all things from football, to her favourite books...

What got you into football?

To be honest, I was a bit of a trouble maker. Football was one of the main things that helped me from going down a pathway that most of my friends went down. I was in an area that was less fortunate. Didn’t have much money but it gave me an opportunity really. I owe a lot to football. I can afford to buy a house, a car, to look after my family and it’s all from kicking a little round thing. Yeah, I’ve had to work hard but it’s all down to football really.

What age did you start to think about becoming professional?

I started at the age of 4. I was the only girl there but played for a boys team until I was about 10. We were pretty decent, a couple of them played at Dagenham & Redbridge, Swansea and Cardiff City. Cardiff City asked about a number 11 that plays on the wing and that happened to be me and they took me on. It wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 when I started to think it was something I could make a professional career out of. Womens football wasn’t that big over here but it was in America, with players like Brandi Chastain, celebrating her winning goal in her sports bra is something that people will always remember. That was the only dream I had where I thought I could go to America and make it as a female footballer.

What was it like being the only girl in your team?

At the time, it was “kick her” or “she shouldn’t be playing with the boys” but I’m a mentally strong person so it didn’t really affect me. In a way it gave me more of a drive to prove people wrong. I was more like “what else have you got?” because I’ve not had it easy and I’ve worked hard for the opportunities I’ve been given. I remember one game, a man shouted “break her legs” because I made their son look silly, but it’s only looking back on it now you think it's probably because of people like that and the jealousy they had, that I'm where I am today.

So when did you make the transition to becoming a pro?

I was 18/19 and I played for Cardiff, at the time and was made vice captain. Bristol came in for me and the coach thought if they made me vice captain they would keep me and they did. I was comfortable there and I said no to a few top teams, at the time, but I turned 21 and Bristol came in for me again then Cardiff made me captain. At 22, I had another opportunity to leave and I think it was the right time for me. The WSL had just started and Bristol came in for me again. I made the move and became semi pro but didn't start all the time. However I managed to get 6-7 goals in my first year. Mark Sampson helped me make that next level and helped me improve my game during that period.

You’re a semi professional footballer, what did you do outside of the game?

I was at University studying sports coaching and I was finishing my last year, when I signed for Bristol. I was working in a bar every weekend and also worked part time in a shoe shop. If football wasn't around then I don't really know what I would be doing. I’d like to think I’d have become a top office lady or owned my own business but I can’t really see my life not having football in it. Even when I retire, I can’t see football not being part of my life.

What would you like to do when you retire?

I think every footballer will tell you that they hate to think about when they will retire. It's probably the worst fear of any footballer and is probably the hardest decision you will ever have to make. I own my own soccer school in Cardiff. I’d like to put it towards less privileged areas and become cheaper so more people can experience it but I’ve always liked the idea of going into coaching. I want to give kids the opportunities I never had and get to these less privileged kids to help them get the opportunities.

What are the objectives for this season?

Personally I’d like to score more, I used to get like 12 to 13 goals a season so I’d like to be back at that level and become a bit more ruthless, less nice. I want to win things, I want to be the best and if anyone in competitive sport says that it's not about that they’re lying. As for my club, they want to win things, also. We've been in transition and I feel like we're ready to get on with competing for trophies. I also want to qualify for a major tournament before I retire. Wales have come a long way under the manager and hopefully we’ll be at the next World Cup.

What were your first impressions of Concave?

I was pleasantly surprised! Seeing the other players wearing them you sometimes become a bit sceptical about them but I thought I’d try them. I thought they would be a bit naff, but they weren’t. I play on 3G so I think if a boot is still comfortable on a surface like that then you know they are of the same standard of Nike or adidas. I spoke to the brand to find out a bit more information and saw that they were receptive of me and matched my ambitions.

What would you say is your strongest attribute and how did that help choose a boot?

I’m fast, I want a lightweight boot that is durable for me to run at a high speed so I became a Volt girl. Now Concave have progressed to the coloured lightweight boots and they’ve got the boots to a level where they are accessible to any type of player and there’s three choices. I took notice of the Volt when they were in the pink/white and it took my interest and I just thought that I would give them a try.

Do you have any superstitions before a game?

I always cut my socks off on the ridge of the sock where your ankle goes. I wear normal socks underneath and always have my socks up high like Cristiano Ronaldo did when he came from Lisbon. I put my left boot on first, then my right shin pad and vice versa. Just always prefered to get ready that way...

Any other interests?

I have my own soccer school so that takes up a lot of my time outside of football. I don’t do any of the coaching there but I like to go down and organise it, meet the kids and their families on parents evenings. I also like to get tattoo’s. It's another interest of mine but I also like to read a lot of psychology books.

Why tattoo’s and where do you get them done?

Studio Afflecks in Manchester or if I'm back home I go to an artist in Cardiff that I’ve been going to for the last 6 years and they do my leg sleeve. I like the pain, it's addictive but it’s like a therapy and for me it's more of a time to have a bit of release whilst I'm getting work done.

What sort of books are you reading?

Well they’re books on athletes and self motivational books, where they look into studies as to why an athlete won 7 gold medals, compared to another who’d won 4. Looking into their backgrounds and the social backgrounds, where the one that was less privileged won more because they had to work harder for their opportunities. Stuff like that... I like the thinking books because people don’t seem to think I can read but I really enjoy it. A lot of people just think I’m the class clown.

What advice would you give to any aspiring female footballers?

Work hard! People always take hard work for granted. I made football my number one, nothing else and that's in my free time as well. I made football everything and I’m probably running and working harder now than I ever did. Just to make sure that I got to a big club like Liverpool. So you just have to work hard and maintain that throughout.

Finally, where do you see the women's game heading in the future?

I think it will keep getting bigger but I hope that means some teams don’t get sacrificed. I mean that like I'd rather have more teams with a lesser quality than less teams with quality. I think that is where America has succeeded because it gave these other clubs a platform to progress and grow to make them competitive.

Writen by Concave @ 5/16/2017 3:33 AM