On Wednesday morning, Faye White announced her decision to retire from football after a glittering career spanning 17 years.
Captain of Arsenal Ladies and England for more than a decade, the 35-year-old won everything there was to win at domestic level, and skippered her country at four major tournaments.
Vic Akers, the manager for the majority of White’s time at Arsenal Ladies, had nothing but praise for his former skipper.
"She was one of my best signings ever. She captained the team magnificently and always showed great attitude"
“She was a born leader,” Akers told Arsenal.com. “She had a great attitude and was, and still is, a great role model for the women's game. I think we'll have to go a long way to find another player similar to her.
“She was one of my best signings ever. She captained the team magnificently and always showed great attitude. She's a great person too.”
Having retired from international football last year after winning 90 caps, White gave birth to her son Lukas and did not feature as Arsenal Ladies retained their Women’s Super League and Continental Cup titles last year.
She sat down with Arsenal.com this week to explain why she’s calling it a day, reminisce over some of her finest moments in an Arsenal shirt, and explain how her career effectively started at a McDonalds near Gatwick airport.
Faye, you've decided to retire from the game. What brought the decision on?
It was mostly my age and injuries. I retired from internationals when I announced my pregnancy last year but I didn't want to stop at Arsenal straight away because part of you always wants to carry on. It's quite a big final decision so I gave it a bit more time. My knees are getting a bit older and I noticed that when I was getting back to fitness after my pregnancy. It's probably the right time to stop. In September 2011 was the last time I played a full game for Arsenal. It was when we won the first Women's Super League title - the last game of the season in Liverpool. After that, I picked up another injury, which meant I had to have a double operation on my knee. I tried to come back from that and gave it four months of recovery. It was a struggle and I think you kind of know within yourself sometimes. Because I've had a lot of injuries with my knees, it started to get more and more and I wasn't playing many games. I thought I'd give it more time because there's a hope that the rest might have been good for them. I wouldn't want to come back and only be able to play partly. I just thought it's the right time because the youngsters are coming through. I've had a good career at Arsenal - 16 years, which is one year off half my life span. That's pretty awesome and I have to be thankful for that.
"It's really hard. You always know it's coming and that you're going to have to make the decision at some time. When you see the girls play, there's always a part of you that wants to be out there"
You've been away for a while now, it must have been really hard to get used to not playing football?
It's really hard. You always know it's coming and that you're going to have to make the decision at some time. When you see the girls play, there's always a part of you that wants to be out there. I don't think I'll ever lose that. I'll always miss not playing and the preparation for a game, training and travelling away. I've got different avenues to go into now. I'm still involved with the Club in the background because I'm employed here. But it's quite hard. You could carry on forever. My mind says I can but deep down I know that my body can't handle it anymore.
It must have been a very difficult decision. How much thought did you put into it before deciding to hang up your boots?
When you realise that you're going to have to stop, you really don't want to admit it to yourself. It was upsetting. Some days, you'd be watching and wishing that you could carry on. You go through all these emotions. You know you're not going to have that upcoming game to focus on, or know you're traveling away or are going to meet up with the team. I enjoyed the routine. The best substitute is to have a family and my son. Having a child is without doubt the best feeling you can have. He certainly keeps me busy now so it's worked out well in terms of family life.
What are your plans now?
I’ve got a few options. I want to stay within the game in some form. I'll be doing some commentary for some of the WSL games and I enjoy that. It's good to watch the games and be able to promote the sport. Half of the worry when you retire is that nobody is going to want you anymore or that you don't feel involved as much. I've been really busy. Even when I took time out for maternity leave, I was still being asked to do so many things and that's been brilliant. There's so much work to be done to promote the game and get it to a professional level. Having more coverage has helped people to watch it and form an opinion on it. Having the Olympics helped too because so many people got behind every sport. I remember watching a snippet from the World Cup coverage in 1995 and it then became my desire to emulate that and play for a top club. Luckily I managed to do it.
I know you're an ambassador at the UEFA Women’s Champions League final, what does that role involve?
It's basically trying to profile the final and get people to know about it and come along and buy tickets. I think 12 or 13 years out of the 16 that I was with the Club, we played in the Champions League. It's another challenge and some of the best and most dramatic games we've played in have been in the tournament.
"I never thought that I would win so much. I captained England and Arsenal for over 10 years and that's brilliant. I look back and think I've done a lot and I've won a lot"
What do you remember about signing for Arsenal?
Funnily enough, my first meeting with Vic was in a McDonalds. It was the only place he knew where I lived so we chatted there. We sat down and had a coffee. I didn't have any food though because I was trying to make a good impression! I think we went back to my house after that and I actually signed there.
You’ve had an amazing career full of achievements. You must have some fantastic memories to take away with you?
I never thought that I would win so much. I captained England and Arsenal for over 10 years and that's brilliant. I look back and think I've done a lot and I've won a lot. I have to be thankful for that. I've won a lot and I'm really fortunate to have done that and played for so many years at such a wonderful club. I think it's a great Club and that's why I never moved. I had offers in previous years, certainly around the time the American league started up. I knew Arsenal was a great place and really looked after the girls and did a lot for women's football in this country. As the England captain, I wanted to play the game in this country rather than abroad. To spend my career at one club is pretty good. We've been so successful over the years and have won a lot of trophies. I feel fortunate to have been a part of that. I won pretty much everything there was to win, including the WSL in my final season. There wasn't much to come back and win really.
Talk me through the quadruple-winning season of 2007. That was an amazing achievement…
I had mixed emotions about that season because I was out for a while when I did my cruciate in my knee. When we won it, it really put England and Arsenal on the map. Suddenly everyone was looking at us and thinking 'they've just beaten the best team' so it was great to be a part of the Club at that time and see the team achieve that. It was great for Vic as well. He's put so much work into the women's game over the last 20 years. To see him win it was probably the best thing for me.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say?
I just want to say thank you to all the players I've played with, and Vic, who was the manager for most of my time at Arsenal. I really owe him so much. He's done so much for me. He's been fantastic and so have the players I've played with. I'm fortunate that I've played with some of the best players in England. I've really enjoyed promoting the game and am thankful for the support we've had to help us win the trophies. I couldn't have asked for a better career really.
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