Hannah Bodily uses Aston Villa experience to help guide young Cambridge City Ladies squad
Adjusting to the demands of the FA Women’s National League was always going to take a bit of time for Cambridge City Ladies.
It is a very young squad, many of whom have not played at this level previously, so finding their feet and the nuances of Division One South East was never going to happen at the click of the fingers.
That is why Hannah Bodily has such a big part to play for the Lilywhites.
She is one of very few that have had a taste of the higher leagues, and that comes through playing for Aston Villa.
While at university, Bodily was part of the Villans’ under-23 development squad.
“It was a really high standard,” she says. “The emphasis was on passing the ball, keeping the ball and every session was very intense on tactics.
“Everyone was trying to pass, you never went long ball, it was always about keeping it and moving it around – it was just the way we were coached.
“A lot of them had come right through from the centre of excellence so it was the ethic they wanted to develop.
“It was a good level. It was tough but definitely made me a better player.
“You are playing with the first team girls so I know girls that have been called up to the England squad that were playing in there and playing WSL development matches against players coming back from injuries, like Toni Duggan.
“It’s an experience that you can’t really take away, playing against players of that calibre and level.”
Life soon took over as Bodily approached the end of her studies.
Training meant a trip to Tamworth three times a week, and the commitment took its toll as Bodily prioritised her education.
She was given the option to stay at Villa, but on moving back home at the end of her degree, went to play for hometown club Bedford Ladies.
The football was really enjoyable at first, but she started to fall out of love with the game. However, City were to soon come to the rescue.
Bodily knew City chairman Kevin Jacklin from her days with the centre of excellence, and playing for Cambridge Women – the City and United merged club.
“I was thinking of leaving, but didn’t know where else to go,” she explains.
“I had a text from Kev as I’ve played for him at county level to see if I was interested as he had seen I had left Bedford.
“I wanted something fresh and Kev spoke wonderfully about the club.It’s a young team, up and coming, and playing at the same level I had been playing at, so I knew I was comfortable.”
Bodily, who is sponsored by Tavistock Private Clients, may only be 23 but, having played for Cambridge Women aged 17, she is now a ‘veteran’ of senior football - certainly within the City ranks – and that will be vital.
“ I watch a lot of football, and that has helped me read the game,” she said.
“I’m nowhere near the best player or the quickest player, but I can help organise.
“Playing with someone like Sofia (Castiglione), who is only 17, she is a great player technically but I’m able to help her out telling her where to be and give a bit of advice.
“It is the same with Ceri (Flye) at the back.”
She added: “It’s going to be a tough season. We are so young.
“The main aim is don’t get relegated – from there, we want a nice, comfortable season.
“We want to build and grow into the league so we can build on it for next year.”
More by this authorMark Taylor