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An interview with...Loren Dykes
 Women's Football Player News - 13 Mar 2021
Player News - An interview with...Loren Dykes - 13 Mar 2021 - Women's Football NewsEarly in the month of February, it was announced that Loren Dykes was to retire from playing football at the age of 33.
After coming to prominence as a teenager with Cardiff City, Loren moved on to Bristol Academy (now Bristol City) where she played in two FA Women's Cup Finals and nearly won the FA WSL in 2013. She went on to captain the team until the end of her career.
She went on to be capped by her country at a young age and became the second player after Jessica Fishlock to be capped 100 times by Wales, male or female (they have since been joined by Sophie Ingle).
Off the field, Loren looks to inspire the stars of the future, with coaching roles for the Wales U15s and the Bristol City senior team in the WSL. As well as coaching, Loren is also an ambassador for Street Football Wales, a social inclusion charity that delivers football to socially excluded individuals throughout Wales. As part of her role, she was an ambassador for the 2019 Homeless World Cup held in Cardiff in July. She has also made several fundraising ventures for charity, inluding once climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and she was awarded an MBE in 2019 for services to women's football in Wales.
One of the most popular, and without doubt the nicest and most modest player in the women's game, Loren kindly agreed to an interview in which she looks back on her playing career and how she hopes to make a contribution through coaching in the future:
WSS: Loren, thanks for talking to us. How tough a decision was it for you to make to announce your retirement?
LD: Well, firstly let me start by saying I knew at the start of the last season that it was going to be my last, obviously with COVID-19 happening that just brought a little bit of an earlier end to my career than expected but I knew it was time, mentally and physically. The hardest part was accepting that others might not understand that this was the best decision for me, and the timing of me finishing was far from ideal being in the middle of a Wales qualifying campaign which had obviously been prolonged due to COVID-19. I never intended to leave halfway through a campaign, and I think some people thought I would do another year with Bristol City with the season being forced to end. I tried to keep going because I was worried about what others thought too much, but it was very clear to me that whilst my love for the game is still burning strong, I knew I was ready to hang up the playing boots.
I accepted that it was the right decision for me and that was what was most important. As someone who doesn't really like a lot of fuss, I didn't really want to announce it - I would have happily just left that part out and carried on with my life. I have no problem talking about it, I just really hate fuss; it's probably why you don't see many of these interviews about! But the more coaching I started doing, the more I needed to just draw the line under the playing days.
WSS: When you took your first steps at the start of your career, could you ever have envisaged how things turned out?
LD: Never, because I had no big dream of becoming a professional footballer, it's not something that was even an option! I'm not even sure I would call myself that at the end of my career to be honest. All I knew growing up was that I loved playing football, I enjoyed a challenge and proving people wrong and I've managed to make a career out of that somehow.
WSS: Can you remember when you won your first senior cap for Wales?
LD: I do vividly, it was against Holland away. I remember I'd been on a few senior camps before this happened, once even warming up as a sub and about to go on the pitch only for the fourth official to turn around and tell our coach we had already made three subs, that was fun! But it was worth the wait. I remember being in a meeting and before the manager had even spoken, seeing a sheet with my name on it and I remember trying to come up with every possible reason why that couldn't be the starting eleven until he confirmed it and I spent the rest of the meeting trying to stop myself shaking. I have no idea what else was said after that point. The game itself I don't remember a lot about, just I remember it being very warm and trying to chase Dutch shadows mainly.
WSS: Which matches were the ones that stood out for you in your career?
LD: For Wales - Germany away, the first time we played in front of a huge crowd (I can't remember the exact number, maybe 17,000 or more). To experience how big women's football was in another country. Their keeper Silke Rottenberg was retiring on 125 caps on the day and we were probably playing more like our 100th game as a nation. I remember looking at the clock after ten minutes and feeling like I had been playing for about 89! It was an amazing experience and showed us what we needed to aspire to. The other obvious ones are England away (0-0), having our red wall in the corner of the stadium at Southampton making so much noise and holding out one of the top teams in the world. We left our hearts on that pitch. Followed by Russia at home in a 3-0 win, it all came together that day. It still gives me goose bumps and that set up the home match nicely against England. I have never felt support like that in my life - it was overwhelming to have a nation behind you like that it makes me emotional even now.
At club level I would say reaching two FA Cup finals, there is nothing quite like that FA Cup final day! Also beating Barcelona in the last round of 16 in the Champions League will always be up there!
WSS: Have there been any or many people who have had a big influence on your playing career?
LD: Every single coach I have had, including the non-coaching staff. You cannot achieve anything without others. The ones who believed in me to the ones who didn't, it all played its part and I'm thankful for every experience. I think Jarmo [Matikeinen] was the one who moved me to full back, which was a massive part of my career, so that sticks out in my mind also. My team mates who, through all the ups and downs, made me feel valued and appreciated when I didn't always feel that way about myself. And my family, the ones who I could go home to and just be me - it didn't matter whether I'd had a good game or a bad game. My parents were always so level headed and supportive. They were realistic that it wasn't always going to be plain sailing, I'm not sure I would have had the career I had without their advice and support.
WSS: Wales have come so close to qualifying for major tournaments or at least reaching the play-offs during your career, how confident are you that they can go that one step further in the future?
LD: I believe that Wales have a good opportunity in the next campaign to do this. The squad is so strong, the games against Norway proved the capabilities of the squad and the younger players are getting better and better, they need to be given the opportunity to gain experience alongside the support of the more experienced players. Yes, it will be hard of course, but I think we have every opportunity in the next campaign. I'm excited for this team to express themselves and show what they can do.
WSS: Are you hoping to stay in the women's game in a coaching role, and do you have any ambitions to be a manager one day?
LD: I get asked this a lot and get told I will be a manager one day; I don't see this myself. Maybe it will come with experience but to be honest, I think I am someone who loves the challenge of taking ideas on paper and translating them into the training pitch and into the game. That's where I am happiest, working with good people and under a good leader who inspires those around them. I don't know exactly where my future lies but people always say start with the why, why do you want to coach? My answer is to make a difference, to develop people who play football. I want to help create history and create a better future for women's football.
Our thanks and best wishes to Loren!
Photo by Will Cheshire

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