Sitting on the side lines watching your team-mates, the footballer’s ultimate nightmare. Maidenhead United Women goalkeeper Ellie Parker is no exception. Having been sent off for handling outside of the area in the Magpies 3-2 defeat at Stevenage in the FAWNL Plate at the start of last month, Parker has been forced to sit out two recent Maidenhead home matches against Southampton Women and Brislington Ladies. And she hasn’t enjoyed being the other side of the hoardings: “I absolutely hate being on the side lines! I want to be able to make a difference and I don’t feel I can impact the game unless I’m in it”.
To compound Ellie’s frustration, both matches missed have resulted in heavy defeats for Maidenhead however the score lines on both occasions mask the true picture of the games. Against an impressive promotion-chasing Southampton side, Maidenhead defended generally very well but went down to a 4-0 loss. Then at York Road last time out the Magpies dominated a goalless first half against Brislington but were given a harsh second half lesson in finishing in a 5-1 reverse.
Parker however is philosophical on what she has watched in recent weeks: “The team put in a great performance against Southampton and held them off for most of the first half. It was unfortunate the way in which the goals were conceded to cost us the game. Against Brislington the first half was great and there were enough chanced to go in at half time 3 or 4 goals up. Overall Brislington were more clinical when they eventually got a chance and that was the difference. A game of two halves”.
Parker’s experience is such that she has learned to be more objective. “This is my tenth season with Maidenhead. I previously played at Reading Royals for about three years and before that Basingstoke for about seven years”. And despite some tough recent results it has largely been an upward-curve for Ellie and her teammates. “My first couple of seasons were brilliant. We won the Chairman’s Cup, had our best ever FA Cup run to the First Round proper and got promoted to the National League. We’ve also played at Stadium:mk in the County Cup final. Worst moment? Probably last season when I made an absolute howler against Denham in the Cup for them to equalise in the last minute. I had played pretty well until then! It went to Extra Time and penalties and thankfully we won the shoot-out!”.
More Maidenhead United Women interviews:
- ‘It is a great honour’ Alex Dover on leading Maidenhead United Women
- ‘We want young girls to know football is for them’ says Kat Mace
- ‘At the age of 12 or 13 I just stopped’ Maidenhead United’s Simone O’Brien
Ellie is a popular mainstay of the team who has hardly missed a kick before this season when he has had the misfortune of being sent off twice for handling outside of the area. Describing herself rather harshly as “a little too passionate”, Parker is quite candid by what she sees as her strengths and weaknesses: “I think I communicate well with the team. I’ve also worked a lot on my distribution this season so I can be more than just a ‘shot stopper’. As a weakness, I need to improve my positioning sometimes. I have been working hard on this during training though, so I’m hoping that comes through in my games now that I am back”. With Combined Counties outfit Eversey & California goalkeeper and Maidenhead United men’s goalkeeping coach Liam Vaughan as joint manager of the MUFC Women, Ellie has a perfect role-model to help make this talented ‘keeper even more of an asset to her team.
In the fourth tier of Women’s football – unlike the men who play at the equivalent level – MUFC Women all have day jobs, and Ellie relishes her 9 to 5. “I am a Human Resources Advisor for our match day kit sponsor Exclusive Networks. And I love it! The firm also kindly sponsor our match day tracksuits.”
When not working or playing football Ellie is watching the men’s and women’s game and shares with long-serving team mate Alex Dover a love of the runaway Premier League leaders. “I support the mighty Liverpool. I looked up to Emma Brown-Finnis as she was the only female goalkeeper I used to see on TV growing up, and that was only because we could watch the occasional England game when it was shown. I’ve always liked David Seaman too and of course Jerzy Dudek for his Grobbelaaresque performance in the Champions League final”.
January looks to be a big month on paper for the Maidenhead Women. They make the long trip to Buckland Athletic on Sunday 12th in Parker’s long awaited first game back, before they travel to Wycombe Wanderers the following Sunday in the Berks & Bucks Cup semi-final, a competition that Parker and her compatriots are yet to win. On the 26th it is another journey to Devon and Exeter City. A lot of travelling for amateur players.
Parker’s targets are typically focused however: “More clean sheets and more clean sheets, but who doesn’t have that target? I feel that if we can keep our cool, be patient and stop teams creating chances in our box we are much better placed to have a go at their goal and get ourselves more points on the board”. Maidenhead will at least go into that tough-looking schedule with their regular stopper, a big personality and a big heart in the shape of Parker.