Interview with Nikita Parris

We arrived at Carrington Training Ground to be greeted at the first barrier by a rather large security guard, who asked us who we were and who had we come to see. He radioed ahead to check we were being expected. After a long conversation backward and forwards on the walkie talky he let us through which took us down a long single-track road to another gate house with a gaggle of autograph hunters stood outside, peering at every expensive car that passed them but didn’t give old Honda Civic a second look. We were asked again at the second gatehouse who we were and who we had come to see and then they let us through.

We parked up and made our way to the main building and where we met Kath Phipps on reception, a club legend and a firm favourite with players and staff. Having worked at the club for 55 years, Kath had worked with Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex. “Would you like a drink” she said. Should I chance a tea? I thought, it might be powdered stuff like we get at OT, no it was a tea bag and proper milk! We sat down with our drinks and waited.

Then Mary Earps walked through reception (she was being interviewed by Sky). We called her over and told her we were interviewing Nikita. “Oh you’ve drawn the short straw” she laugh. “I’ll tell her you said that” I replied. Steve Bennett who is the Football Media Relations Officer for the Women’s Team came over from another building. He told us Nikita was just finishing off training and she wouldn’t be long and would we like to sit in the press room at the side of reception.

It was just a short wait and Steve returned with Nikita. We told Nikita who we were and just explained about MUDSA. Then we started the interview. Exciting as it was the first player interview, we had spoken to.

A bit about Nikita Parris before I start the interview

  • Nikita Josephine Parris (born 10 March 1994) is an English professional footballer who plays as a forward for Women’s Super League club Manchester United and the England national team. She previously played for Division 1 Féminine club Olympique Lyonnais, Manchester City, Everton and Arsenal.
  • From 2018 to 2020, Parris held the record as all-time leading scorer in the Women’s Super League. With Olympique Lyonnais, Parris has won the 2019–20 UEFA Women’s Champions League, the 2020 Coupe de France Féminine (Women’s French Cup), the 2019 Trophée des Championnes, and the 2019 Women’s International Champions Cup. With Manchester City, she won the 2016 league title, the 2016 and 2018–19 Women’s Super League Cup as well as the 2016–17 and 2018–19 Women’s FA Cup.
  • For England, Parris helped the national team reach the semi-finals of the Euro 2017 and a fourth place finish at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Her six goals during World Cup qualification ranked first within UEFA nations and secured England’s place at the top tournament. She helped England win its first-ever SheBelieves Cup in 2019.
  • Parris was named the FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2019. She was included in The Guardian’s list of The 100 Best Female Footballers In The World in 2018 and 2019 and of course was part of the England squad that won the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.

What do you think of the progression in the women’s game and how do you think it will progress in the future?

I think it has progressed massively. I started playing 12 years ago and there was only 8 teams in the league playing each other twice and the league finished early. But recently its going from strength to strength with the influx of foreign players help the quality of the game grow and the quality of the teams. More teams have bigger depth in numbers, which creates a better league so there is not just one or two teams dominating. As you can see the top four five teams anyone can beat anyone.

What stadium would you most like to play at that you have not played at already?

Played at all the best stadium Emirates, Old Trafford, Tottenham, Wembley etc. The pitches are superb. It’s ok playing at these stadiums but if they are empty, it not great but to be fair when we played at Old Trafford the fans have come out in their numbers and it a great atmosphere, it’s great to see and long may it continue.

Who was the player you most looked up to when you were growing up and why?

Julie Fleeting (ex-Arsenal forward) & Thierry Henry. Julie could be out of the game for 70 minutes but then she’d always score a hattrick and win the game. Thierry Henry wow, weaving in and out of players I remember watching him against Jamie Carragher one of the strongest defenders in the premier at the time and he just tore him to pieces, that’s what I wanted to do.

What’s it like playing for Manchester United growing up supporting Liverpool?

(Laughter) For me what I want to do is play for a team that’s got ambition, quality and will move the game forward, not just now but long term. For me Man United have ticked all those boxes. The ambition of club is so great its not just now they are thinking about but years to come. How they develop the squad and we as more experience players can help the squad grow. The role in which I wanted to play in football and how I am moving forward with my football career, When I spoke to Mark (Mark Skinner Manager) and the rest of the team they wanted me to be a huge influence on the team and for me being a Liverpool fan never came into it, it was about what team us best for me and  I think Manchester United is that.

What was it like playing for Lyon in France in terms of culture and living in France?

Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life to be honest. I remember the first six months thinking how I’m I going to get through this? Like going to training and everyone speaking French, the coach, the tactics were in French.  Having to adapt every day, going home my head was banging.

Did you pick up the French?

You had to, they wouldn’t speak English it was a rule in the club. Going to supermarket they would not speak English and it took me about six to eight months to get use to it then it became more natural.

Did you always think you were going to make it as a footballer growing up.

Yes, had no doubt in my mind whether it was here in the England or in America I knew I was going to play professional football. The American league was the one everyone spoke about. I wanted to get my degree (sports development) first in England and wait later to go. I was quite lucky as I turned 16 the women game was turning semi professional and two years later professional.

How did it feel to win the Euro Championships with England and what were the effects afterwards in terms of legacy of women football?

It was a dream come true, we had come further than any other previous tournament . It was about taking that next step and getting to the final then we knew we had a chance. We played a tough German team. We found it hard in the first half, but we knew we had to keep the pressure on and had enough quality to win the game. And the legacy in the long term we have to wait and see what that looks like you know. The most important thing is It shows that women and girls across the country that there a career path in football and an opportunity can play at the highest level, compete, and win, that the main thing. As a team winning the Euros we wanted to inspire the next generation not just players but influence managers, coaches , referee to come into the game and make the game flourish in equality in all aspects of the game. I think you smashed it!

Last question: What’s your match day routine and have you got any superstitions?

I get to the stadium and listen to my music. Some of the girls go into the stadium and stand on the pitch to get a familiarisation, I don’t really do that. I just sit in the changing room and get my body activated, listen to music, do a few stretches then I’ll start to put my kit on. I always put my left on before my right, so I suppose that’s my superstition. Before we go out we will talk tactics and focus on our individual rolls then come together as a team use the tactics board to set the main aims of the first half as forward line, midfield and defence.

Sorry, I thought of another question. What’s on Nikita’s playlist?

On my playlist is all upbeat R&B & Dancehall to help me get into the vibe and prepare for the match.