Interview With CUWFC’s Lauren Rouse

by Adam Tarasewicz

Last weekend, CUWFC drew 3-3 away at Ashford Town with Lauren Rouse coming off the
bench preceding an inspired comeback from the U’s. Just before kicking off the season
against Norwich City, Lauren sat down to talk about developments in the women’s game,
last year’s ups and downs, and the optimistic team dynamic ahead of a new season.

Could you start with a quick introduction to yourself?
: I’m Lauren, I’m 27, I’m a centre-back playing for Cambridge United Women’s first
team. I haven’t been a centre-back for that long – I was sort of converted at the start of last
season having previously been a right-back and having previously captained the
development squad a couple of seasons ago. I think I’ve played in every position, but I’m
really enjoying playing centre-back and that’s my preferred position now.

Could you talk about your playstyle? You said you’ve played in a lot of different positions –
how did the transition go from right-back to centre-back?

Lauren: It was Darren our coach who sort of tried me there first. I think it was during pre-
season of last season. I was a little unsure at first because I thought ‘I’ve never been a
defender!’ I’d only transitioned to right-back a couple of seasons before that – I’d always
been an attacking player, I was always a striker when I was playing growing up, and then I
became a midfielder, so defence was completely new to me. But obviously as a right-back I
had to defend as well as attack, so I had sort of some experience defending.
It was Darren who noticed some of my strengths could be used at centre-back, so he played
me there – and it took a bit of adjusting – a bit of confidence building definitely because
apart from the goalkeeper you ARE the last line of defence! So, that was a little bit nerve
wracking for me because I thought, ‘if I do make an error, I’m going to have to rely on my
other defender or the goalkeeper to bail me out’ – whereas if you lose the ball further up
the pitch it’s not as detrimental. So, Darren noticed some of my playing style, being quite
aggressive, and converted me to a centre-back – if the team needed me to play elsewhere
for a game, half a game, half a season then I would but I’m really enjoying playing at centre-
back now.

You’re from the local area, having come through Cambridge City, Cambridge United, Burwell
Tigers etc. – what does the new ETC licence, which has been given to quite a few clubs, mean
to you?

Lauren: It’s a huge step in terms of our female development pathway and I believe it’ll
provide extra opportunities for talented young girls coming through. I think the programme
gives players the best chance of developing and progressing to achieve their full potential
and hopefully it’ll produce players that can represent the women’s team in the future. This
last season we’ve had a number of girls stepping up into women’s football, and some of
them haven’t just been playing for the development team but being regularly in the squad
for the first team. I just want as many young girls, who want to play football, to have the
opportunities that maybe weren’t there when I was growing up.

And that obviously comes after such success recently internationally! Do you expect to see
an instant impact, or do you think it’s going to take a while?
: I think it’s going to take time. I think unfortunately it’s taken too long in the first
place to recognise women’s football properly. I think the Euro’s win was so important and
inspiring for us as a nation let alone the club. It is a step in the right direction but arguably a
step that should’ve happened years ago. I’m glad there is more coverage of the women’s
game available on TV now, but I want anyone inspired by the lionesses and the euros win to
go and watch your local women’s clubs as well as support them as much as you can. I have
no doubt that the Euros win will see more opportunities for young girls at grassroots level
and I’m hoping that that’s implemented through schools as well. When I was at school there
wasn’t really an option to play football in PE – hockey and netball were your standard
choices for girls, so I’m hoping that isn’t the case going forward and there is more
opportunity in school for children to play the sport that they want.

Absolutely. Now, you have to balance it with your own lives, your own jobs outside of
Cambridge United, but are there things you would like to see you as a team do more in the

Lauren: Yeah! Obviously, as you said, we’re all volunteers, but we love the game, and we
love girls enjoying the game and seeing local teams playing football. I feel local girls’ teams
in Cambridgeshire look up to the likes of us and Cambridge City, so the more interaction we
can have with them the better. Last season we had a number of local girls’ football teams as
matchday mascots and they loved it, so we’re definitely looking to get them involved this
season also.
I believe it’s free entry to our games for kids as well which will hopefully allow families to
come to our games and bring kids who want to watch us. Obviously, with our full integration
with the men’s team this year, and the women’s new board, they’ve been massive supports
to us already, and I’m hoping we’re able to explore these channels a bit more in terms of
promoting the women’s game. We’ve got four games at the abbey this year so that’ll be
really good for us – there’ll be lots of promotion around those games and we’re hoping a lot
of people will be able to come and support us.

In talking to another pod (Nothing To Lose) you’ve previously said about the best player
you’ve played against, has that updated recently? What strikers maybe have really caused
you a problem?
: Quite a few to be fair! I think player wise I’d said Leighanne Robe and I played with
her rather than against her – I probably played against her as well. We’ve played the likes of
Ipswich, Hashtag, Billericay, MK Dons in the last couple of seasons and they’re teams filled
with quality players so I don’t think I could pinpoint one. There was a girl who played for
AFC Wimbledon (Ashlee Hincks), she’s quality – a striker, she’s played at the highest level I
think for Chelsea – she’s played in the Women’s Super League, played in the FA Cup final
and yeah, I think I was tasked to man mark her for both games! It was tough but maybe they
were trying to rely on my aggressive nature to sort of combat her – it was a tough game all

And Robe of course plays for Liverpool now!
: Yeah, she’s just- she’s class!

You’ve mentioned Cambridge City being another team in the area which youth teams look
up to. There’s that lot up the road as well but I understand, like with City, you all know each
other. Has the derby with Cambridge City developed more over the last year or are you all
still very friendly with one another?
: Yeah, the city derby hasn’t really changed, we’re still friendly. It’s still a match
played with passion and hunger but there’s no drama or animosity off the field. Obviously,
it’s a game that both teams look forward to every season and obviously both teams want to
win like any game of football. It’s a game that usually attracts a lot of fans, so we obviously
want to give them an exciting and an entertaining game to watch.

A bit about last season – it started very well, but then a bit tougher towards the end, really
after the last game against Norwich. How do you feel the season went as a whole?
: Last season came with positives and negatives. Like you said, we started off really
well and then results started to drop towards the latter stages. Obviously, we won the
county cup, which was an achievement for us, but I’m not entirely sure why our results
dropped in the league. I couldn’t really pinpoint a reason; we’re just hoping this season we
learn from our mistakes from last season and are able to be more consistent with results
this year. Every game is going to be a test for us this season – we can’t take any opposition
or any game for granted, or underestimate any team we’re gong to play against – we just
need to go into every game working hard, playing as a team, and with the want and
determination to get a result.

Yeah, you mention want and determination, is that a dynamic the team really has?
Lauren: Yeah absolutely, and the coaches really praise us for it, for showing it, but for me it’s
something that should just come naturally. You’ve got 10 other players on the pitch, and
you should be playing for them as much as yourself. I feel like that has got to be there from
the start – there isn’t any point in playing a match if you don’t want to work hard and you
don’t want to win at all costs. You’ve got to want to fight for your team and do anything to
help your team out and help to get a result.

And that’s what the fans want to see as well! Hopefully you’ll have bigger crowds this season
and hopefully you’ll keep putting in that effort.
How is Darren as a coach – for those that haven’t seen the team before?
: Darren is good as a coach, he set out early his expectations and standards for us, to
anyone new as well as people who’d been there a little while. He’s been consistent in what
we’re trying to achieve and how we want to play, but he’s also there to encourage and give
individual feedback – little details in a training session just to help us learn and understand –
whether it’s something to do with our positioning or the timing of the press, or when and
how to use the ball – it’s been really good. Ben’s also been really good, he’s consistent in the
information he’s giving to us and trying to build on that every week. With new players coming in, all I’ve seen is everyone being welcoming to them and just trying to help the
team understand the style of play better – just so we’re all on the same page with what
we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to achieve, and how we’re trying to play.

Going into this season, you’ve talked a bit about how you feel about it, but what would you
like to achieve, who do you maybe see as the biggest test?
: Personally, I don’t really have any individual goals for this season other than to help
the team out as much as I can, on the pitch and off the pitch. I’ve really enjoyed pre-season
so far so I’m at a stage where I’m ready to start the season properly. I think that’s as a
collective as well – we’ve had pre-season, we’ve enjoyed pre-season, we’re gelling as a
group, the new signings are fitting in really well so I think we’re in a good position to start
the season and we’re feeling positive.
I don’t think, as a team, our goals from last season have changed really. Obviously, our goal
is not just to stay in our league but to finish in a good position, and any silverware would be
good, we’ll look to have a good run in any cups and go from there!

Those new signings, based on when they come in, they have less time in pre-season, you
don’t think that’s affected them?
: No, the signings came in early on in pre-season, which is a really good time for new
players to come in because it allows that adjustment for them as well as us. It allows us to
understand their playing style, and experiment with partnerships and the team dynamic
before the season kicks off. The new signings are fitting in really well personality wise as
well as footballing wise – I feel like we’ve really come together as a team this pre-season
and training has been really enjoyable. They’ve brought experience as well as talent and
they’ve really shown what they’ve brought to the team during pre-season so I’m really
looking forward to them having them with us.

And with an eye to the games at the Abbey, are those the ones you’re particularly excited
about, or are you just raring to go for the entire season?
: Yeah, just really excited to start the season. I couldn’t highlight a fixture in
particular, I think every match will be a good test for us, and I’ve said before we can’t
underestimate any opposition in our league. I am really looking forward to our fixtures at
the Abbey and I’m hoping we can get a good crowd there. I think games at the Abbey are a
good opportunity for us to showcase how we can play, and to promote the Women’s game
to as many people as possible. I’m hoping that lots of local girls teams can get along to see
how we play and hopefully we put on a good match for them!

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