My Everton #134: Glory & Gratitude - Fern Whelan

There are many things that I think of fondly when I look back on my time with Everton - not just what we achieved together on the pitch, but the connection the group had off the pitch as well.

We had a really amazing team and culture, and I was fortunate to play alongside some fantastic players for a long time.

Rachel Unitt, Fara Williams, Jill Scott, Rachel Brown-Finnis, the list is endless. We had a real collective bond and that always carried us through in good times and when things got tough.

When it comes to standout moments, the FA Cup final win in 2010 will always be special.

The Forest ground, in front of 30,000 fans going into extra-time against Arsenal, a team that we hadn’t beaten. We were fighting with them constantly in the league and to beat them on that day was just unbelievable.

That’s a massive memory that sticks out as well as the parties we had afterwards, although I’m surprised I can remember them!

To lift a major trophy like that for a great football club like this is something you dream about as a player. It's the pinnacle.

Our manager at the time, Mo Marley, was vital to our success. I’m retired now and people often ask me ‘who’s the best manager you’ve played under?’ and I always say Mo, without hesitation.

It’s not just because of her tactical knowledge - she was brilliant and knew her stuff - it was also how she was able to manage people and the way she spoke to us. Off the pitch, she really looked after you as a person and not just as a footballer.

At the time, as a youngster in a team full of internationals, I wanted to learn and develop, and Mo gave me that space.

I remember training at Finch Farm, going up to pester her at the end of training to ask if she could stay behind for an extra 15 minutes to work on different aspects of my game.

She was so accommodating with that; she would be pinging balls in from the corner to help with my heading because I wanted to score more.

It's those little things - the details, the extra time, that ends up making a difference.

Like all players, there was a moment where I dipped in form, and I didn’t play for a couple of games, but I wasn’t frozen out.

I would still speak to her after every game, and she would allow that. She would give me that time and tell me what I needed to work on, and I went away and did that.

That was in the build up to the FA Cup final and it gave me that added boost I needed going into the game.

Afterwards she came out to me and said, 'See, you did exactly what I told you to work on and we’ve gone on and won it.’

I can’t give her enough credit, she’s a fantastic manager and an incredible person.

By Fern Whelan, former Everton defender (2005-2014, 2017)

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