EMILY WESTWOOD ON HER NEW BLUES ROLE
The experienced defender says she is 'honoured' to stay involved at the Club.
But she admits that Sunday's St. Andrew's fixture against Reading (12.30pm) is likely to be her last as a professional.
Next season Westwood will take up a position helping Manager Marc Skinner shape the culture and environment around the playing squad.
A large part of it will be mentoring and advising younger players, drawing on her vast experience.
She explained: “When Marc came in we spoke and I said I really wanted to give another season a go. He came in when it was the Spring Series so we had that to get through and then this season.
“Initially, I wanted to give it a good go at being full-time because I’d only been full-time a year before that.
“A few months ago we had a bit of a catch-up and he said ‘this is what I want to do for you’. He said he basically wanted to kind of reward me for the hard work and effort I’d put into the Club, the amount of time I’d been here, into a new role after the season finished.
“He said he didn’t know what it would look like exactly or entail, but it would be centred around the environment, the culture of the Club and mentoring the youngsters, helping them come through.
“Obviously with the experience I have got, tapping into that would be really good.
“I felt really honoured that he came up to me and said that's what he wanted to happen.
“We kind of negotiated it a bit and we’re calling the move a transition phase where I will go from training full-time to training a couple of times a week, so still being involved in that way. But then taking on this other role. That’s the crux of it.
“Like I said, I felt really honoured that Marc approached me.
“He is really good football-wise, he is a dreamer, he is almost eccentric when it comes to his thoughts and ideas about the game. We have really bought into it, you can see that on the pitch.
“But first and foremost he wants to look after people. I like Marc and I like him for that, he is looking after me because he must think I am a good person too and I put a lot of time and effort into the Club. That’s where we are at basically.”
So Sunday is sure to be a significant moment for the 34-year-old, who joined Blues in 2010.
She said: “I suppose Sunday will be my last competitive game as a full-time player.
“Obviously with the new role I will be training. Although it's yet to be discussed, yet to be defined about how many times a week that will be. Maybe a couple.
“I have said to Marc that it is time for me to move on, time to make that transition.
“More for my mental health, rather than just stopping at the end of the season, this is a better way to approach things. I am sure others - Katie Chapman, Alex Scott – those kind of people who are retiring, there’s going to be a big void in their life. Hopefully I can bridge the gap and in a year’s time I can let it go finally.
“Yes, Sunday will be my last game but I have said to Marc I want to keep fit and healthy and if, for whatever reason, defenders get injured I am there and he could rely on me to help. It’s a big if, but I will be in the environment, I’ll be around. I know how he wants to play and I suppose I will learn even more about that as well being on the other side.”
Westwood is ruling out a career in management or coaching as a long-term option.
“The answer is no. I don’t like coaching – I can’t do it! I think it’s a real skill. No, that won’t be further down the line.”
But as a figurehead, a respected figure who can set an example to players and advise, and assist Skinner, that is more suitable for her.
“I have got 10, 12, 14 years on these youngsters. I have been to European Championships at youth level, I have been to European Championships, World Cups with England, won the FA Cup twice, I don’t know how many appearances for Wolves, Everton and Blues.
“So I have been there, I’ve seen and done it. I have gone from paying to play, playing and now being paid to play and it being a full-time job.
“I have been through it all and I think I have got something to offer to the Club. I am looking forward to it.
“The other part of what I will be doing is that I have just qualified as a personal trainer and I am setting up my own business, with a colleague. That’s in the pipeline. We are just planning for that at the moment.
“Part of the time will be with Blues, the other part will be trying to make my personal training business grow.”