If you were on Family Fortunes and Mr Dennis said they'd asked 100 members
of the audience to name a female footballer in England - you'd be guaranteed
points if you answered 'Marieanne Spacey'. It was probably the Channel
4 coverage of the WFA Cup in 1989 and her ability to catch the eye with
the odd blistering goal from 25 yards which made the name recognisable.
Ten years on, she's just won the Premier League National Division top
scorer award, both cups with Arsenal and been recalled into the England
squad. Not bad for a mum. Marieanne started playing at British Oxygen
in 1979 at the age of 13 - which makes her (shhh) 33 now, though she'll
be '30' in next year's Arsenal squad info' as they've kindly started subtracting
at each birthday. She joined the famous and successful Friends of Fulham,
who became Wimbledon, before donning the colours of Arsenal in the nineties.
Jen O'Neill learns not to call her Max.
"I hate that. I detest it. But it's a football name. Max is easier to
say on the pitch and it's certainly better than 'mum'!"
In the beginning:
"I started playing football with my dad, my brother and my uncle, kicking
a ball around outside the house. Then I started playing for a youth club
team when I was 9. Unfortunately, we had to kick my sister out of the
team, because when we were winning 12 or 13-0 she would score own goals
because she felt sorry for the other team. My family have always been
very supportive and even now, without them I wouldn't be able to play.
"With Friends of Fulham when we'd just won the cup, we went to a local
McDonalds and everyone turned to look and whispered to each other, 'That's
Friends of Fulham, they've just been on the telly.' That was our first
real instance of being noticed and we didn't really know what do to do.
I'd played for England for years and never had that, it was weird."
Have playing standards improved since then?
"I actually think that that Fulham/Wimbledon side was on a par with the
present Arsenal team, though it's hard to compare. The present Arsenal
girls are a lot younger and fitness levels are much higher, but still,
that team on its day would have been better than any other, even now.
It was a collection of such talented individuals - Terri Spriggett, Debbie
Fox, Brenda Sempare.
"People should remember and respect there was a game before 1993, that
pioneers built the foundations and paved the way for what is happening
now. There were so many talented players, like Teri Wiseman (England and
Fulham goalkeeper) She was a mentor to me, I learnt so much off her. Martin
Regan and Barry Williams (ex England managers) were brilliant but they're
"Every team now has good players, though all I tend to see is 'who is
in my way of scoring goals!' This season particularly, the girls are looking
after themselves better and working on their game. In some ways it has
affected 'team spirit' - not that we don't have that now, but we used
to finish the game and then pile down the pub for a sing song on a Sunday
night. That doesn't happen anymore, because people know they are better
off going home, re-hydrating and stuffing themselves with pasta!"
Why did you move to Arsenal?
"I went to Arsenal because I felt stale at Wimbledon. I met Vic Akers
(Arsenal manager), had a look round, joined in a training session up and
down the Highbury terraces and then I signed. It was a step to make me
a better footballer and I've relearned how to play the game.
"Football comes first here. We're part of the fabric of the club and we
strive to reach the standards that are expected. A lot of people seem
resentful of Arsenal because of the support and attention we receive and
our success. But are people jealous of what we're getting or are they
envious because they're not getting it? That's the way I see it. What
we get - we work for. We don't just turn up on the first day of the season
and get given a pair of boots and a tracksuit. A lot of us do community
scheme coaching and media work. "When we travelled in our open top bus
last year with the two cups, we thought everyone would follow the men's
bus and we'd just have the stragglers who couldn't keep up! But people
stayed and congratulated us before they moved on - it was fantastic. We
had breakfast with the male players (we got photos and autographs because
we're still fans!) and they said we deserved it and should enjoy it. If
you could take what Arsenal FC have done for women's football here and
put it into every other club - the profile of the whole game would develop.
"This year's cup final was a real highlight in that sense. It was well
publicised, there was a good crowd and it was such a buzz. In the dressing
room before kick off they said it may be delayed because there's still
3,000 outside! I've played in 6 cup finals (won 4) and scored the winner
against Liverpool, but this year goes down as my favourite. There was
a whole spectrum of people there. That's the point of what we're trying
to do - entertain the community.
"We get on average 100-150 supporters at home games at Borehamwood, though
when Arsenal is live on SKY we get about 3. I'm not knocking SKY, their
involvement in the women's game is great, but they concentrate on the
show piece cup final when surely there must be time slots available for
a weekly round-up of the women's game - for consistency."
How has having a baby affected your footballing life?
My daughter Sophie is 3 and having her has changed my whole outlook. The
girls love having her around (well they say they do) and they talk to
her, which is part of her development. She comes to all of the games and
has a good laugh. She's left footed and got a real strike on her!
"I used to take football really seriously. I hated losing and tried to
win battles on the pitch. Now I don't feel the pressure and I enjoy my
game a lot more. I felt I had to really train to be in the Arsenal and
"Last season, I was seriously considering packing in, because I hadn't
got my fitness back. I wasn't reaching my personal standards and thought,
'Will I ever reach them again? Should I go while people remember Marieanne
Spacey as Marieanne Spacey and not, 'Marieanne Spacey - well she came
back after a baby and wasn't the player she was before.'' But I've trained
consistently and now I've got another season in me and even just got back
in the England squad. I honestly thought that wouldn't happen again. When
I got the letter my legs went weak. I've played 76 times for England and
now I feel like the new girl!"
Have you worked to develop your shooting power?
"No, not really. You see the goal and shoot and if your timing's right
then it flies! Shooting is all about timing and I've been lucky that my
timing is good. You can coach a player to kick and head a ball, but there
are some things that come down to ability and instinct. You can't coach
someone to get the ball on the halfway line and run 40/50 yards and strike
the ball into the top corner - that's just the sort of instinctive player
I was. I'm greedy. Sometimes I think, "Why didn't I pass?" I just can't
do it. I can't head the ball either! I had two really good chances in
the cup final. One of them I thought I'd given away a throw-in rather
than scoring! I just lay there laughing. It would have been nice to score
- but the result is the important thing.
Even though you won the game, Vic still wasn't pleased with the performance.
Is he a hard manager to please?
"Yes he is, because he knows what the girls are capable off and he wants
us to constantly attain those heights. He was a 'pro' himself so he understands
players have off games, but this season, we had one or two days when everybody
was 'off'. Like Tranmere away. We could still be playing today and still
not score - our attitude was wrong, but that helped in the cup games because
we didn't want to have that feeling or get the roasting we got off people
afterwards, again. From then on our attitude changed. Vic hammered us
after the Ilkeston game we won 6-0! Though that was the game before the
cup final and he had to ensure we didn't slip into a 'Tranmere' mentality.
What in the game still frustrates you the most?
"This will go down well! We need a better standard of refereeing. The
game is moving on and that side of things needs to move too. Wendy Toms
was superb at the cup final. If you knew you were being refereed by a
Class 1 or 2 referee then you'd know they will only make a few mistakes.
Instead, we turned up for a game and the assistant had a pint of lager
in his hand. It's the Premier League National Division and it seems like
some of them just treat it as a 'Sunday run-up-and-down-the-line' joke."
Do you take it slightly tongue in cheek when you attend these big award
events now, considering you've been playing for 20 years and you've been
there all of the time?
"Yeah, a bit. They probably think. Oh, just give her a trophy and she
might stop playing!"