Katie Reid on debuts, development and defending

Katie Reid claps the supporters at Meadow Park

For every home game, one player of our women's squad shares their insight into life at Arsenal in our matchday programme.

From our Bristol City issue, it's time to hear from our academy talent Katie Reid as she settles into our first-team environment and grows on and off the pitch.

It was great being a part of the team on the day we won that Conti Cup trophy. I was cup-tied, having already played in the group stages with Watford, but just being there for that moment, soaking up the atmosphere before and after the game was amazing. 

On the coach, the whole squad was getting in the zone and I noticed that everyone had their unique routines. They didn’t do anything differently just because it was a cup final - the familiarity helped them prepare. My own pre-match routine isn’t too complicated because I don’t want it to psychologically mess with me if I forget something!

Celebrating the silverware with the team in the changing rooms afterwards was especially cool but getting to lift the cup in front of the crowd was so, so special. It was one of my first experiences like that with the fans and hopefully, there’ll be many more to come!

Katie Reid, Naomi Williams and Vivienne Lia lift the Conti Cup trophy at the final at Molineux

I’ve been at Arsenal since I was 13, but before that, I’d only ever played with boys. When I first joined the academy, I was pretty scared not only to play with girls for the first time but also to train at such a prestigious club. It was interesting to make the switch from boys’ to girls’ football because I’d been used to a very quick, very physical game but with the girls, their tactical understanding was better, their decision-making was better and their manipulation of the ball was better too. So I got to develop that side of my game. 

I wasn’t always a fully-fledged centre-back. At under-14s, I was pretty flexible in terms of positions and played at centre-back, full-back and across the midfield. It was at the under-16 level that I started to push on and find my true home on the pitch. Your position evolves a lot more naturally when you’re younger and play grassroots football because you’re running all over the pitch and you play pretty much every position at one point. But when I was playing at centre-back, it just felt natural. 

Katie Reid wins a challenge against the A League All Stars

I understood the demands of the position and I felt so comfortable there. I love dominating the ball and getting stuck into those 1v1 battles, but a huge aspect of a modern centre-back is finding ways to build from the back and break those opposition lines. It all clicked for me. 

It’s a special bond you build in a football academy. You not only see each other grow as footballers, but you also watch each other grow as people. We build connections on the pitch but we’re also friends off it, and that all comes together. When I went on loan to Watford with Laila [Harbert] and Michelle [Agyemang], the girls all said: “You can tell you three played together because you all know each other’s movements and style so well.” I know exactly where Laila is on the pitch and I know exactly what pass Michelle is going to want to receive. 

My time at Watford taught me a different mentality because when you make the jump to the Championship, you have to learn how to win games. Of course, you’re still coached to win in the academy but so much of it is focused on developing your performance. At a senior level, you’re competing at all costs. That’s something I learnt quickly because I thought our performances were great at Watford but we struggled to get results. We had to adapt to find that balance. 

When Arsenal recalled my loan and brought me back to be full-time with the first team, I was in shock at first. But once the dust settled, I knew this was a great experience and a great opportunity to prove myself. I can still learn so much and train harder than I ever have before, but when you’re in the first-team squad, you’re there to compete. That's what the transition was about. I’m just trying to take each step as it comes, showing what I can do and enjoying the moment, because it’s not an opportunity that everyone gets given. 

I’ve been around the first-team environment since I was 15 but it still doesn’t feel any less surreal to play with that calibre of players every day. They’re so experienced, they’re world-class, and it’s a privilege to play with them. It’s not only that I can learn so much from them in a football sense - they’re also incredibly approachable and friendly as people. I ask everyone as many questions as possible.

Katie Reid and Lotte Wubben-Moy after Katie Reid's debut

It’s especially amazing to see players like Leah and Lotte, who play in my position and have come through the ranks of the academy, get to where they are. I’m so inspired by them because they’re proof that there’s a future for you if you continue to work hard. I feel that way with Teyah too because she’s a player I know and trained with and she showed me there’s a pathway to the first team. Now, we’ve had Codi and Amanda join and they both bring different components to the defence that I look up to.

To be honest, every single woman on this team inspires me because of how they conduct themselves on and off the pitch. Being together as a team and understanding the team's values is key because you have to be on the same page. You have to understand and trust each other, otherwise it’s not going to work. I recognise that when I compete and work hard and do well in training, I’m ultimately helping the team and the starting XI. Your individual effort feeds into the collective. 

I’ve also been lucky enough to have some amazing opportunities with the youth England sides, travelling around the world to play in major tournaments. It’s not an easy transition from club to international football because you don’t spend loads of time together, especially at the youth levels. But being able to play against different countries develops your game so much because each team brings a different style of football. The more types of opponent you learn to beat, the more complete a footballer you will be. 

It's crazy being a footballer because even as little as four years ago, I remember going to watch women's games and the fans were there of course, but we weren’t even close to selling out Meadow Park. So to live through the transition of popularity and get to the point where our team is regularly filling up Emirates Stadium is just amazing. I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of it because seeing how far women's football has come in such a short space of time, it's just unreal.

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