Visiting for the annual Bath Children’s Literature Festival, we sat down with Casey Stoney discussing her book on overcoming the odds

Casey Stoney, former England football player and the head coach at Manchester United Women’s team shares insights into her book, Changing the Game, shining a light on those who have overcome the odds to play the sport they love.

Why did you decide to write a book?
I feel that it’s incredibly important to help inspire the next generation of female footballers and to celebrate the amazing, game-changing trailblazers who have paved the way and helped improve the women’s game over the years. While there is still work to do, I feel that we’re at a tipping point for women’s football and if I can play a part in educating and inspiring young girls and boys, creating opportunities for them to follow their dreams then it will be worth it.

Why do you think the women’s game has been sidelined for so long?
There are numerous reasons – researching the book I learned more about the barriers in place for the likes of Lily Parr (1905–1978) and Bella Reay (b.1900) where women’s competitive football was not accepted in public circles after the First World War. In more recent years there has not been the financial investment in the women’s game, so clubs and leagues have been forced to fold. For a long time, and still now at some levels, female players are juggling a full-time job with their football careers and so the standard inevitably suffers. With the progression over the last few years and teams becoming professional, the standard of women’s football has risen noticeably and we now get more interest from supporters and investment from sponsors, so my hope is that future generations will benefit and not suffer the barriers and challenges that those before them had to overcome.

Why and when did you first become interested in football?
My first memories of football are playing in the street with my brother and our friends. I just fell in love with the game and it was all I ever really wanted to do. I am very driven, stubborn even, so whenever someone tells me I cannot do something – which has happened a number of times during my career – it actually makes me even more determined to work harder to prove them wrong.

Who is your own female football hero, past or present?
Kelly Smith, who features in the book, was my hero as a young player. She was so athletic and technically gifted as a footballer. I had the privilege to train and play alongside Kelly for club and country and I learned a lot from the way she conducted herself on and off the pitch. Now retired, she still works tirelessly to promote the women’s game and she is a great inspiration to me.

What impact do you hope your book will have?
The book highlights numerous stories of triumph over adversity which I hope inspire young footballers (male and female) to pursue their dreams. It’s also about shining a spotlight on amazing women within the game to celebrate their successes and make sure that young players have visible heroes that they can aspire to emulate.

Catch Casey Stoney at The Bath Children’s Literature Festival being held from 27 September to 6 October at various venues of Bath; bathfestivals.org.uk