Town’s No.9 has had quite the career – and she’s not done yet!
“It’s always the opposition who shout ‘put her on her right’ for the last 15 years and I still can’t work out if my right foot is THAT bad or my left foot is actually half decent?!”
After the second lockdown of the year struck, another sand-still to Huddersfield Town Women’s season arrived, but Town winger Sarah Danby has other ideas and is ready to make this season memorable after her fine run of form in the opening eight games. Playing on the wing under fresh face Jordan Wimpenny, she has flourished and is a joy to watch – playing attractive attacking football under her new boss.
When you conduct an interview digitally, you almost ask yourself if the passion will be the same compared to a face-to-face chat in real time. Sixty seconds into the chat with Sarah, it becomes crystal clear she’s very eager to get started on speaking about her football journey.
Danby started playing football at a young age, kicking a ball around the park in presence of her parents. Her father loved the beautiful game and this is where Danby formed her love for football as a child. Born in Houghton-Le-Spring, a small village between Durham and Sunderland in the North East, Danby spent hours kicking the ball off the wall with her friends.
“I grew up up North playing football which was in my blood from a very young age. Eventually, I went to primary school and started playing. I was the only girl in the team at the time but didn’t join a professional team in my early years.”
Shortly after turning thirteen, she got her lucky break after playing regularly in a boys’ team and began to play for a local team, Lumley Ladies in Chester Le Street before being successful at trials for Sunderland’s centre of excellence. Training once a week, she was known for her hard work and dedication in her spare time, hoping to make her mark on football as a star in the near future. Danby always motivated she was one of a few who turned up to games with a vision:
“to be the best and impress the rest.”
Danby would go on to start an impressive journey in the football world, making her debut for Sunderland against Arsenal at just the age of 15. At the time, Sunderland played in the National Women’s Premier League, which was the top flight of women’s football, and featured in massive games – none bigger than the FA Cup Final against Arsenal in 2009.
Having made lifelong memories, Town’s no.9 moved to Yorkshire to study in Leeds during her university life at eighteen before signing for Huddersfield soon after, changing her approach on the pitch by adding versatility to her game in one-on-one situations. Having had previous spells at Man City, Bradford, Leeds and Guiseley, she joined Town in the 2018/2019 season.
Having played at the top of the women’s pyramid early on in her career, the 29-year-old was offered the opportunity to play in the Super League in her youth but wasn’t able to follow up the chance based on work commitments. But Danby continued to blossom in her mid 20’s and is aiming to work her way back up the ladder as she looks to enter the peak of her career.
The formidable winger admits she still has many more years left in her locker and promotion remains her number one aim.
“I would love to get promoted one day. That’s the team’s short-team goal this season.”
Town are currently in the Women’s National League and are looking to make it into the second tier for the first time in their history.
“Huddersfield is my home and I have been here for three years now.”
Danby has always been a fan of the Terriers faithful since joining, but had a bone to pick with certain fans during our conversation.
“I’ve been hearing the opposition shout ‘put her on her right’ for the last fifteen years. I still can’t work out if my right foot is that bad or whether my left foot is actually half decent?”
She says jokingly. Danby will be looking to silence any critics by continuing her hot form on Huddersfield territory next month. A right-footed goal would be a perfect start to life after lockdown, both on and off the pitch.
When asked about her current inspiration, she replied:
“Kevin De Bruyne, it has to be. He is the complete package right now.”
Danby a much improved winger for Town this season and is known for her lethal pace, facing up defenders and driving into dangerous areas with her strong left foot and says she’s the fittest she’s ever been.
Outside of football, Danby has worked in the police for six years and has five years’ experience within the shift working industry. In that time, she’s had to take many days of annual leave and has struggled to train – often playing after 12-hour night shifts. In the past year, she has taken up a sociable role at work working as a Public Protection officer. The role has helped her lifestyle so she can train and play every week, thus balancing her duties. This has motivated her to get the best out of her football due to her commitments and Danby seemed pleased about her balance in a joyous tone.
“Now it’s easier to play and not have the burden of playing after an hour’s sleep.”
She believes she can now bring so much more to the game and is in a better position to do so, feeling much fitter and healthier in the process, which is why she feels she has been on the up as of late, in terms of her form and contributions in midfield.
I was quick to agree as a journalist who has been looking on, seeing her development game by game. ‘I would definitely agree with that, when you break on the counter you look so dangerous’ I say and she laughed in agreement. But Sarah is adamant she has a long way to go as she still has to continuously apply herself in her work and fitness, especially in lockdown.
Speaking about lockdown, Danby fears the worst. She felt like the first lockdown was beneficial as she was exercising every day and had plenty of free time in the summer.
“Now, the lockdown is detrimental. I come home late after 5 and tonight I went for a run in a pitch black street. Last time round it got me into good shape, but now it’s about maintaining that with the routine becoming more difficult to balance and repetitive.”
Replacing ex-manager Ashley Vickers, gaffer Jordan Wimpenny now takes charge of the Terriers. Wimpenny joined the club in 2019 having worked as an Academy Coach at MK Dons and Stevenage FC respectively and Danby has been impressed with his breath of fresh air and the way he manages training from the word go.
“You can tell his approach is very professional. He knows the way he wants us to play and train. His methods and tactics are clear and you can see that in the recent results.
In training we work on team shape and different formations and plans, depending on who we are playing of course and the opposition in hand. Training varies on many of these factors.”
As the conversation drew to an end, I asked Danby about the team’s recent form.
“If we go back to the first 2 games, it was new, we were playing whilst trying something new with new management.
Hull away was the first game we won and that was a massive turning point.”
Danby went on to give us an insight on her personal contributions at the start of the season.
“I didn’t get 90 minutes in the first game and the second I didn’t start, which was a struggle.
I had so much to prove [against Hull] and that win cemented my position for the next game where I seized my opportunity. But when we played Sunderland, that was a complete performance and slick as you like. We looked like the complete package in that game for me.”
She praised Jordan Wimpenny’s preparations, describing the manager’s tactics and his training regime as “spot on.”
“when we go forward as a team, we always look really dangerous on the attack. That comes from training, understanding from midfield to attacking units, Even building from the back. We always have more than one option, we aren’t just a one-dimensional team.”
Danby’s journey in a Huddersfield Town shirt continues. With much more to give under manager Wimpenny, the future looks bright for Town’s star winger. Let’s hope her left foot continues to do her wonders with the team on the rise in the league as we search for a first ever promotion to the second division.
Interview by Raheil Mehboob