DESPITE women’s football thriving and interest in the sport at unprecedented levels nationwide, one of the regions brightest young prospects has decided to leave the game behind, at least for now, aged just 24, writes Thomas Jobson.
It is the dream job for so many youngsters and for Chloe Dale the ambition was no different; the only difference to most was that she fulfilled it.
Now aged 24, Chloe, who was capped by England at Under 15, U17 and U19 level, has left Aston Villa Ladies and is now focusing on a career in the media industry.
She said: “It was a combination of reasons but ultimately I got a bit fed up of juggling football around full-time work and I was frustrated that my focus was always split.
“I know a lot of players that go straight to their job after playing 90 minutes and I take my hat off to them. I just wanted a change to my routine.”
“I still play on a Saturday morning each week in Blackheath and I absolutely love it! We just play – that’s it.”
“It’s nice to now be taking it less seriously…although I still always want to be on the winning team!”
As well as becoming disenchanted with the professional game, Chloe admits that her time in America at Hofstra University also contributed to her decision due to the new experiences available to her Stateside.
She said: “I think my time in America allowed me to discover other interests. I was so focused on my football for so long, I kind of ignored everything else!
“I had to do an internship as part of my degree and I ended up working as a Production Assistant for a TV show called Entertainment Tonight.
“Being on the shoots just gave me a real buzz and I enjoyed doing the research for the questions.
“After completing the internship, I knew I wanted to find a full-time role in production.”
Whilst at Villa, Chloe simultaneously worked in marketing for a holiday company before leaving the club in March 2017 to take up a production assistant role at the Picture Production Company in May that year.
She has been involved in a varied array of projects thus far and admits the variety of the job is one of the most enjoyable aspects.
She continued: “I split my time between the Brands team and the UK Film team, creating and re-versioning film trailers and adverts for TV, cinema, social media and VOD (video on demand).
“It’s really varied; I’ve worked on a lot of different projects since joining the company a year ago – from WWE Christmas ads to PlayStation game promos and Sherlock Gnomes trailers.
“This job gave me the opportunity to move to London, which I was really keen to do after falling in love with the big city vibe of New York.”
Despite growing to love New York City during her time in the U.S, before making the decision to move, Chloe found herself unsure as to whether it was the right option for her at that moment.
She added: “I was really unsure if going to America was the right decision for me.
“Staying at Chelsea and fighting to get into the first team would have probably made me a better footballer as I’d have been training with senior internationals week in, week out.
“But after a trip to visit the campus at Hofstra University, it became clear that it would be an experience of a lifetime – beyond just becoming a better footballer.
“When I was out there, the football was brilliant – we trained every day and had two games each weekend. I felt very lucky to be part of an amazing team, to be working towards a degree and to be living in New York.”
Upon returning to the U.K in 2016, Chloe subsequently re-joined Aston Villa Ladies that September, a club with deep ties to her and her family having started her professional career there.
She said: “It was a big step joining Villa as I moved there from an all-boys team called Olton Ravens.
“I still remember the trial at Bodymoor Heath! My dad has supported Villa since he was a kid and he used to go to the games with his dad.
“The club means a lot to my family and it was great to be able to make them proud by wearing the shirt.”
Chloe emphasised the importance of her family not just throughout her professional career, but also on the journey to getting there from humble beginnings playing at the local park just behind their house.
“My earliest memories of playing football are kicking around in the garden and in the park with my dad,” she said.
“Our house in Olton used to back onto a huge park and I used to nag him to pass the ball with me.
“If there was a game going on, we’d often join in – jumpers and bikes for goalposts, it was great!”
The support from her family extended to more than just a kickabout at the local park, as they would get involved in so many aspects of her career to help her out however they could.
She added: “I think it’s hardest for my family because it was a huge part of their lives too – coming to support me at my games, taking me to training, eating healthy meals and all the rest that came along with the journey I went on whilst playing football at that level.
“Suddenly there’s a gap to fill.
“However, I couldn’t ask for a more supportive family – they are fully behind every decision I make and are excited to see what happens next.”
Whilst Chloe has not yet ruled out a return to the professional game at some point in the future, she has no regrets over her decision and still has fond memories of her career as well as her final game as a professional.
Chloe said: “My last game was for Villa and we were playing against Brighton. I’d come on as a sub with about half hour remaining.
“I remember really paying attention to everything that day, taking it all in as I knew it was my last game.
“The fans were singing away and my parents were in the crowd. It felt like the end of an era when I drove away from the ground, but I was excited to see what the next chapter held.
“I’m happy with what I’ve achieved in football and it feels like the right time to have a go at something new.”