Jess Carter exclusive: ‘You can be who you are in the women’s game

“That game was hard to swallow for everybody,” she recalled. “We were good enough to get there but we weren’t good enough to get over that line yet. Barcelona were incredible, there’s not a team like Barcelona, the way they play, but that was a realisation of what we really need to do to go to the next level, to win the Champions League.

“Now we’ve had a taste of what a Champions League final is like, second place isn’t going to be enough for us anymore.”

That ambition is clear this term, with Chelsea currently top of their European group without defeat and enjoying a five-game winning run in the WSL, but with a changed formation, after Hayes switched to a 3-4-3 system which has frequently seen Carter in a sweeper role.

“It’s my first season there, so I’m still learning it, but I really enjoy it. Whatever my role, I’m happy to be in the team,” added Carter, who frequently played as a midfielder for Birmingham, before her June 2018 move to Chelsea. “I’ve always loved midfield, but when Chelsea signed me, they only really signed me as a full-back I think. I’m happy with my role here; defending and one-v-ones are probably my strength.”

One thing that certainly has not changed since her Birmingham days is the love Carter shares with her partner, Germany and Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger, 31, and they are now very used to being on the same team.

“Of course it’s nice to have her here but, to be honest, when you arrive at football, you’re off doing your own thing,” Carter explained. “We were together before at Birmingham so for us it’s nothing new. For me, she’s another role model to look up to, she’s a great professional, and she has so many experiences which help me get better.”

Carter and Berger are not the only couple at Chelsea, whose captain Magdalena Eriksson and Denmark star Pernille Harder’s caught-on-camera kiss at the 2019 Women’s World Cup went viral, and women’s sport continues to set an example of inclusivity. Hayes told this week’s Wrighty’s House Podcast it is “so mental” that more men’s players have not yet come out like Australia’s Josh Cavallo, as her dressing room have such “normal conversations” every day.

Carter is thankful for the environment the women’s game has, adding: “I can understand why many men in the men’s game haven’t come out, because of the scrutiny and backlash behind their matches, let alone who they’re choosing to be with, so in a sad way, I’d say we’re kind of fortunate that we can be who we are in the women’s game. It’s going to take a long time for that to be the case in the men’s game, and we’re very lucky.

“Yes in one way you could say [the WSL is] leading the way, but I think it’s a case of – because women’s football wasn’t professional beforehand – there was no judgement around it, no big media attention. Now our fans already knew who we were, it wasn’t a big shock.”

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