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Club News

Kasia Lipka's a Blade

20 August 2019

I was at Sheffield United from the age of six, it's quite funny how I started really. I was always into football because of my brother, he's three years older than me so I always copied him and I just wanted to do what he could do.

It was my mum who found an advert in the local newspaper for a local girls training group, so I went along and Julie Callaghan, who was the club's academy director at the time, quite quickly said I should go along to training.

As a six-year-old I was really nervous, the youngest age group was Under 12s so I was training with some girls who were twice my age already. One of my earliest memories is that they gave me this kit that was meant for Under 12s, the first session I was running around holding my Sheffield United shorts up.

It was just training on Friday nights really. By the time I was 13 or 14 it was similar to what we have here now, I spent 10 years at the academy with lots of fond memories and I think it set me up really well for my career. It gave me a chance to train under some really good coaches and with some really good players and I got my first England call up while at Sheffield United.

I played with people like Beth England, Millie Bright and Amy Turner during my time with the academy, players who have gone on to do so well in their careers.

The first season I came out of there into the Doncaster Rovers Belles first team I was just amazed. Coming out of an academy and going straight into the first team, playing alongside the likes of Vicky Exley, it was a completely different game going from playing with effectively girls to playing with women.

John Buckley, the manager at the time, told me if I was good enough I was old enough, he didn't hold me back because of my age. I had a good couple of seasons and when I was 17/18 I felt I could handle myself at that level but the club gave me that opportunity to do so.

It felt like a homecoming walking back into the academy, I felt really comfortable to be coming back into that environment. A lot has changed, when I came out of the academy Sheffield United wasn't really an option but the academy was so good to me and it's so nice now that it's an option for me to return.

It's a club going in the right direction and it's an extra special move for me for so many reasons. It's nice to be coming into a team where I already know a lot of the players. I played against Carla Ward and the fact she wanted me involved was a big confidence boost for me, particularly coming back from injury.

Sophie Barker, Sam Tierney and Leandra Little I played with for several years at the Belles. It's so important to have those shared experiences. We had some difficult times, our initial relegation but then we came back, got promoted, got relegated again, they're not experiences you can really re-create, you've pulled each other through those times and I know they've got my back, I've got their back and that's not necessarily something you always get with new players.

I had a great partnership with Barks as well as the others so I'm looking forward to be back playing with that group. I've been out over a year now after rupturing my ACL in a league game for Sunderland against Chelsea at the end of the 2017/18 season.

I think everyone's experiences of the injury are so different. As soon as you hear those words you know it's long-term and initially it's coming to terms with it and knowing you have to write off an entire season.

I've had to dig really, really deep mentally just to get myself through it. It's as much as a psychological test as it is a physical one. I've been doing a lot of my recovery on my own which makes it extra difficult, but I think and hope I've learnt a lot about myself and it's nice to be coming to the end of that and close to be back playing.

With Sunderland not getting a licence last year, it was almost easier for me to disassociate with not playing or wishing I was playing all the time but it was difficult to continuously pull yourself through without being sure what was at the other end.

That's what I was so pleased with speaking to Carla. I wanted to be at a club which understood the position I was in as I was getting back to fitness and I got that support from her immediately which was really nice.

I'm going into an environment where they appreciate and understand that and will do the last few bits with me. It's been difficult doing a lot of the rehab on my own, although I have had some great support from a number of people along the way, so I can't wait to get back into a team environment to do the last stage of my rehab and return to playing.  

It's amazing to be back now. I suppose you get wrapped up in a bubble but obviously when I was six years old I never thought about or dreamed that this would happen. When I left the academy, I was able to go to university and pursue another career outside of football, I've got an economics degree and that's really helped me this year to give me something else to do.

I always just thought football would be a hobby. One of my idols growing up was Sue Smith who I went on to play with at the Belles but she came in to do a talk at the academy when I was about 14 and she was an England international, a few years later I was playing alongside her.

It's been a rollercoaster and I wouldn't have ever expected for this to be able to happen, so it's just amazing to be back. The team did so well at the end of last season, I saw the players involved, I knew there was a good team here and fortunately over the summer it has become a reality.

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