Emma Davis joined Arsenal Women in February 2020 as soft-tissue therapist to the first-team, having previously worked with Gary Lewin at his Sports Injury Clinic. Here she talks us through her role and what it means as an Arsenal fan to work for England’s most successful women’s football club.
Massage plays a key role in post-match recovery, so primarily my job is to get the players ready for training and matchdays. I also work with the medical team to get injured players back onto the pitch.
My interest in the human body and how to look after it came from being a competitive dancer in my younger years – gruelling all-day competitions and training meant many an hour keeping myself ‘match fit’. I guess it grew from there: how best could I keep myself ready to compete while staying injury free?
I quickly learned that I had a natural talent in soft-tissue therapy. I studied massage at college after leaving school, which evolved into working at spas in the years that followed.
But football has always been in my blood and I decided to steer my career path towards a sports-based environment, which eventually led me to The Lewin Sports Injury Clinic where I met Gary and Colin Lewin, who have both played such important roles in the medical department at Arsenal – and in Gary’s case, still does, as he is head of performance services here at Arsenal Women.
"I don’t think you can reach the sort of role I’m doing now without hard work and a desire to carry on learning and improving"
Working under the guidance of not only club legends but such well-respected physios within the sport has helped expand my knowledge and understanding of my role and also given me the confidence to further challenge myself.
That also required further study, because you need qualifications for the role I’m doing now. Massage is now widely recognised in the medical field so I have numerous qualifications in soft tissue therapy. I spent three years at college initially and now have 16 years of hands-on experience. I don’t think you can reach the sort of role I’m doing now without hard work and a desire to carry on learning and improving.
I regularly attend CPD [Continuing Professional Development] courses to keep my skillset, knowledge and standards at the highest level – and of course, it has taken hard work and determination to reach the point where I can work for Arsenal Women.
Before starting here I worked across all levels of football, from the Essex Senior League to elite level. I have to thank Saffron Walden FC, who gave me my start in football, and the clinic, where my client base is from a diverse range of sporting backgrounds. I’ve also been fortunate to have an amazing opportunity and experience at Soccer Aid, where I got to work with the likes of Usain Bolt, Clarence Seedorf and Roberto Carlos to name just a few.
I ended up working here because Gary mentioned that a position had become open so I applied. It was a no-brainer really, being from a household of Gooners. I clearly remember my first day at Arsenal. A very nervous me walked in to be greeted by the whole squad – and Katie McCabe came and gave me a hug, which settled my nerves. As it turns out I’m part of an incredible team and I didn’t need to be nervous at all.
In terms of my day-to-day role, on training days I’ll see to the players’ pre-training as part of their pre-activity warm-up, and then I spend time with any players in rehab before post-training recovery sessions with the squad.
Then matchdays for me are busy, and about being on hand to get muscles fired up pre-match. Half-time often involves some treatment for whoever needs it, then at full-time, attention turns immediately to recovery. Of course, I do get the pleasure of sitting to watch my team, knowing I’ve helped get them ready for kick-off.
I know I haven’t been here that long in the grand scheme of things but there have been lots of highlights already – especially the matches at the Emirates and the trips to Barcelona, Moscow, Koge and Prague in the Champions League... even Wembley for the FA Cup final. OK, so the results haven’t all been favourable, but they’ve all been massive highlights.
Yet the biggest highlight by far is being part of this team and getting to know the staff and players individually. I’m lucky in my role that I get to spend one-to-one time with players on a daily basis and they’re the highlight of my day, every day. I feel there is a very strong spirit here.
Head coach Jonas and the players’ determination for success drives us all forward to be better individuals and ultimately a better unit. We all have a common goal and mindset. And for me, the fans encapsulate the spirit of the club. You can see it in the large crowds we get on matchdays and the atmosphere they create.
"This is such an exciting time to work in women’s football"
You can see that the team is united on the pitch, but it’s also important that the staff are united off the pitch as well. We’re blessed here at Arsenal to have such a great team all pulling in the right direction for success on the pitch.
Then of course there were the Euros and that incredible run to an amazing final. On a personal level, I was so pleased and immensely proud for Leah, Beth and Lotte to bring the trophy home, and to get the rewards for all their hard work both on and off the pitch. I also knew it would be massive for the growth in the game – a great springboard for the WSL.
This is such an exciting time to work in women’s football because interest was already growing quickly, but the summer has raised the game’s profile to new heights. All the media coverage is great and seeing so many fans at the north London derby at the Emirates last weekend – more than 50,000 tickets sold – just goes to show how well this season is going to be supported. It’s testament to the high standards of the game, and the quality on the pitch.
The girls deserve all the accolades they are getting, and the support the fans are giving the team. It just makes you think: “wow, it’s really going to take off.” This club has absolutely led the way in that, throughout its history. Arsenal have been a big part of the huge progress made in women’s sport over recent years and I’m proud to be part of a club with such deep roots and such a long history of success.
In fact, proud is an understatement! I still have to pinch myself when I drive into the training ground, seeing the past and present players displayed on the walls – as an Arsenal fan it’s a dream come true. It’s truly an honour working alongside these world-class athletes as they continue to forge the legacy that is The Arsenal.
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