Ruesha Littlejohn criticises treatment of female players at Birmingham

Ireland forward says women's squad was ‘kicked off’ pitch in middle of training

  Ruesha Littlejohn in action for Aston Villa, which she joined in the summer. Photograph: Jacques Feeney/FA via Getty Images

Ruesha Littlejohn in action for Aston Villa, which she joined in the summer. Photograph: Jacques Feeney/FA via Getty Images

 

Ruesha Littlejohn is well placed to comment on the treatment of female footballers at professional clubs in the United Kingdom. The 31-year-old’s move from Birmingham City to Aston Villa this summer means she has played for 11 different teams since 2006.

Only last April, Birmingham’s female squad wrote to the board outlining a lack of access to changing rooms and the club gym, along with budgetary issues and delays over medical treatment which created a “significantly unfavourable work environment” that proved “detrimental to the mental health” of players.

Littlejohn, who has 60 caps for Ireland, also revealed that training sessions at City were interrupted as the women were moved off pitches.

“There were a few things that happened,” said Littlejohn. “Fighting for pitches, being kicked off pitches when you have maybe only trained for 30 minutes, then you have to get off the pitch.”

In the middle of a session?

“Yes, it did happen. I’m dishing the dirt!”

Australia friendly

Five of the current Republic of Ireland squad – Harriet Scott, Louise Quinn, Jamie Finn, Emily Whelan and Lucy Quinn – are contracted to Birmingham City with Louise Quinn signed this summer and immediately appointed club captain.

“If you are going to have a female team playing in the top flight then you must look after them,” said Littlejohn ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against Australia at Tallaght Stadium. “You have got to give them accessibility to gyms, to train, to have pitches and somewhere to sit in between the pitch and gym.

“Those should be the basics and for every women’s team. I don’t think it’s hard to give someone a changing room to go and sit down.

“But speaking to some of the girls who have signed for Birmingham, they say that the club is back on track and that things are going in the right direction. It’s good to hear that the club is getting right behind them. Long may this continue.”

Littlejohn added: “The set-up at Villa is top class, the pitches are incredible. You go in, you get your breakfast, lunch and sometimes your dinner. Everything is top notch and they really look after you, which is nice.

‘Teething problems’

“So you go into train and just get on with what you are there to do. You are not fighting for a pitch to train on, you are not fighting to get into a gym which is a basic need. You should not need to do that.

“Being at Birmingham and being at Villa, there’s none of this at Villa. Everything is sorted and is the way that is should be and probably a bit better.

“If there are teething problems then they should happen when clubs are starting off going professional. It should not be X amount of years into it. If you have a women’s team then you should have a place for them even if it’s not at the [men’s] training ground.”

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