Thursday, 6 March 2014

SOTB talks to Millwall Lionesses captain, Dionne 'Grandma' Lennon. With 8 years experience playing for the Lionesses from youth to adult level, Dionne is their longest serving player and leads by example on the pitch.

Q. How are you looking forward to new FA WSL? Are Millwall ready for the challenge ahead?

Everyone is excited, there's a buzz with everyone definitely. It's a long time until April, we're just eager to get on with it now and get stuck in. Training is going well, stepping up the fitness is a big difference from what we're use to. But we're doing everything we can to be competitive in the league.

Q. Are there any teams you see as rivals in your league?

In general, most teams are going to be competitive as everyone is recruting, so it'll be a case of who gels the quickest with their new players. All the teams are recruiting players with experience in terms of new signings and bringing in their youth players. The obvious main rivals are the likes of Sunderland and Watford, those teams who were in a higher league with us last season. It's anyone's league at the moment, I think it's just a case of who hits the ground running.

Q. You've been at the club for over 8 years, do you feel that your experience can help others in the team?

I hope so, some of them call me 'Grandma' a lot as I do like to have a moan. I've been at the club a long time and I was fortunate to play at a higher level in the winter leagues for a couple of seasons which I learnt a lot from. Hopefully I can bring something to the team, if not in the way of football experience, then an old head to keep them focused and on the straight and narrow.

Q. What's been your playing career highlight so far?

Apart from getting into the FA WSL, it would probably be the year we got promoted into the National Premier League . We almost went the whole season unbeaten, only losing to Barnet, but by that point we had already won the league.

Q. With the second tier being created for the FA WSL and more matches being shown on tv, positive steps are happening in women's football. How does this feel for players like yourself with years worth of playing experience to finally see the game developing more and being invested in?

I think it's brilliant. the Olympics really helper push it all forward and made the FA set up a second league. Being more televised and more promotion does nothing but help the game. Some of the teams in the top league are getting pro contracts now, which is only going to strengthen the national team better.

Q. Aside from football, do you have a job elsewhere? If so, how do you find it juggling your time between the two?

I work for Suffolk council doing play work and youth work. A lot of the people I work alongside are ex semi-pro's involved in football, so they understand the demands. They are happy for me to leave early, have days off and go training, which is very helpful.

Q. Millwall FC have a great footballing history and the women's side were the first team ever to affiliate with a professional men's team. Does the team have much involvement with the men's side? For example, going out into the community or using the same training facilities etc.

The men's side have got a lot better in dealing with us, they're a lot more supportive in helping us achieve what we want and wish us well. Playing our home games at The Den next season is massive for us. We've only ever played there once in a season, so playing more regularly down there would be great. We get to watch their home games and recently we have been doing some promotional work with them, which is good. 

Q. What does the future hold for you Dionne, in terms of continuing playing? Would you like to get into coaching at all?

I hope I have a couple of more seasons left in me if I stay injury free. Coaching is definitely something I'd like to get involved in. I know Millwall are trying to sort me out with some coaching so I can get my badges and hopefully be able to give something back to the club.

Q. Who do you see as your football idol/hero? And what advice would you give to any young aspiring footballers?

Well I'm an Arsenal fan, so it's got to be Thierry Henry for me. Just his whole attitude to the game, he always plays with a smile on his face and is obviously a great player. In terms of advice, I'd just say enjoy it. Work hard at training, play with a smile and get the most out of it that you can.

Thanks for your answers Dionne, best of luck for the new season.