Scotland has produced some of the best talents in women’s football over the years and continues to do so. Julie Fleeting was once a name that was lonesome in people’s thoughts when asked about female footballers in Scotland.
These days, kids can look up to a wealth of players who’ve paved the way for girls in the game. A goal-machine like Fleeting, Lizzie Arnot is one of them. The Edinburgh native has played for some of the biggest clubs in Britain, been to a World Cup, and has even found the time to bake a cake or two.
Her Football Hub exclusively sat down with Lizzie to talk about her career and the moments that made her into the star-striker she is today.
Where it all began
Growing up in the capital, Lizzie found herself with a ball at her feet from an early age. Like many players of her generation, she wouldn’t hesitate to go about with the boys and play. Naturally she moved on to a club that her pals played for, because lunch-time games at school just weren’t enough. That was the start of what would become a journey only some dream of in football.
“The boys were really accepting, and it was fun. So yeah, I started with the boys at school and then joined a local team. I played with them until I had to move to girls’ football and that’s when I went to Hutchie [Hutchison Vale].
“Hutchie was obviously local, and being in Edinburgh, Hibs [Hibernian] was that next step. It was quite a hard decision – I really did take my time over it because I did love Hutchie, and it was a great club and everything. But I think the way Hibs just had better players at the time and a bit more drive to go forward and more backing and stuff from the men’s side.”
Making moves to WSL
Hibernian were one of the first clubs to take their women’s teams seriously and supporting them accordingly. Scotland was slowly moving in the right direction towards professionalism. And rightly so, 18-year-old Lizzie Arnot now had the vision of making it full-time. The likes of Jen Beattie and Kim Little had made the move down south to further their careers in the WSL. So, when Lizzie got the chance to do the same, she grabbed it with both hands.
“Of course, I made friends at Hibs and it was great, and I had a lot of friends at Hutchie, and I was comfortable and just enjoying my football. But yeah, that was the first time [moving to Hibernian] I thought ‘right, I’m at the age now where I’ve got to try and push on’. I still don’t remember thinking at that stage like ‘aw I could make it as a professional’ because I still think it was early days in Scotland for women’s football.
“I think when I got to around 18/19 that’s probably when I was thinking, ‘maybe I could make something of it’ and obviously I knew I had to move down south at that time to make it happen.”
“They announced that there was going to be a [Manchester United] women’s team and my mum and dad were like ‘aw that could be you playing for them’ and my reaction was ‘aye right’, then we heard that Willie Kirk was going for the [head coach] job and ended up getting the assistant job.
“It helped massively that Willie Kirk was there – it helps with who you know in football. It was good that I’d made enough of an impression at Hibs that he was willing to take me down there so that’s something I’m always going to be grateful for. I remember getting a message from him saying ‘I want to take you to United’ and I went ‘oh my gosh, how has this happened?’.
“There was no question about it, I was never going to turn it down. I was surprised, but of course I was buzzing.”
During her time with the Red Devils, she stamped her name in the history books by scoring their first-ever goal as a women’s club. That same season, the club sealed promotion to the WSL. Making a name for herself in England would soon reap its rewards with an important call-up for Scotland.Embed from Getty Images
On the world stage
Scotland hadn’t been to a major tournament in over two decades. Each campaign had come with as much heartbreak as the last. That was until the women defied all odds and reached the Euros in 2017. Then, just two years later, the World Cup. Even players from much better footballing nations dared to dream of making it to the World Cup. But Lizzie Arnot’s dreams came true that night in Albania.
“Going into that game against Albania was nerve-wracking. At one point we were drawing with them and I came off and heard that Poland was drawing with Switzerland in the other game, and I was thinking ‘oh my gosh we need to score’ because if we didn’t, we’d have been out in typical Scotland fashion and ruining it for ourselves.
“As soon as Jane [Ross] scored we realised we were so so close, we had to hang on to the win and the other game had to draw. I remember Paul Brownlie was up in the stands and he said, ‘their games over, they’ve drew’ and that was it, I was thinking ‘no way, like this is actually happening’. As soon as the game ended, and we’d won everyone just rushed up and ran onto the pitch and was jumping about and stuff. Every time I watch the videos back, I get goosebumps. It was just so special to be a part of that and it was amazing.”
Despite the World Cup ending prematurely for Scotland, to make it there in the first place was monumental. The lessons learned and the experience was invaluable for the players going forward with their careers. For Lizzie, this experience would get her an all-important move back home.Embed from Getty Images
From a Red Devil to a Ger
Lizzie’s time at the World Cup caught plenty of people’s attention – including scouts and coaches. With her contract at Manchester United nearing its ending, clubs had decided to make moves for the striker. One of them was Rangers Football Club. A brand new and improved full professional side looking to add the best talents to their team. A move to Glasgow soon came, and Lizzie became a Ger.
“Just having that professional environment and special set-up being full-time is just amazing. It’s obviously different just know because of the times were in and having to keep safe. Things like getting to eat together and stuff isn’t permitted, so we all can really do is train together and maximise our time together. Once we can do more things together, I think we can only get stronger as a team and grow. We’re a good group but to have some time together even off the pitch, like I said I can only see us getting stronger.
“In terms of set-up, professionalism and the team we have it’s just great and that’s what we want in the game. So yeah, I feel very privileged to be a part of it at Rangers.”
Not just a baller
Every athlete has a hobby that they have out with their sport. Some like singing, dancing or even just watching certain movies. For Lizzie, it’s baking cakes. Even more so, she runs a business making cakes for her fellow footballers or just your regular people. And she isn’t too bad at it either!
“So, I actually took up baking when I was injured but I’ve always grown up around it, both my mum and gran were good bakers. This sounds ridiculous right, but I actually got the idea to bake because I love unicorns and I was like ‘I want to make that into a cake’ which sounds so childish. Of course cakes need to taste nice but I make them because I love designing them – I’ve got a real creative side.
“Once I got into it, I was like ‘oh, I could be onto something here’ and started baking more seriously and doing it for others. It’s just nice to have something else to focus on other than football and I find it really therapeutic. But yeah, the more the word spreads the quicker people find out I bake so it can get quite hectic. I enjoy it but it’s also something I can have as a back-up for the future.”
Game recognises game
As we wrapped up the interview, HFH were curious to know who Lizzie considers the best player she has played alongside. As a part of the Scotland NT, many names came to Lizzie’s mind. Yet, she managed to narrow it down.
“I think every time I get asked this question I try and keep a top three. So, I would say, Kim Little, Caroline Weir and Ez [Erin Cuthbert]. I did grow up playing with Caroline and we were teammates at Hibs together. For me, she’s just so technically gifted and sometimes she does things and I’m like ‘that’s just frightening’. So to single one out, I’d say Caroline.”