“I think everyone who knows me knows that my football is not just a little Sunday league side – it’s Everton Ladies and they know how important that is in my life.”
Just six months ago, Everton captain Michelle Hinnigan was talking to the FA WSL website about how big a role the sport plays in her life.
Today, the club announced that the 27 year old will be leaving Everton with immediate effect, just one day before the new WSL season kicks off for the Blue Girls with a Merseyside Derby clash.
The statement from the club reads -
“With a heavy heart, Hinnigan has decided she is unable to commit to a full-time, professional football career, owing to her occupation as a teacher.”
With the club now in the WSL 1, it has required all the players to commit to a full-time career in the sport, and Hinnigan decided that her teaching career was not something she wanted to give up.
So far, there has been no interviews or quotes from Hinnigan herself, who served as a great spokesperson as the captain for Everton Ladies in the past. A fan favorite, she recently won the Player’s Player gong at the FA Awards. She has also been mostly quiet on social media, her last post about Everton celebrated the team regaining WSL1 status in June.
Hinnigan had good reason to celebrate; she fought tirelessly to get the team back in the top flight of women’s football, all while attending university and becoming a full time PE teacher.
Growing up, she played for a boys’ team before they forced her to quit the team at the age of 10 because she was a girl. From that experience, she wanted to prove that girls could play football and joined Everton at the age of 11. Before becoming a teacher, she worked in a call center while balancing training with Everton 4 times a week, plus training on her own. She made her first-team debut in 2007 and became captain in 2014.
Through the years, Hinnigan watched her friends and teammates like Jill Scott and Toni Duggan leave the team to become full-time at clubs like Manchester City and Barcelona. She admitted that it was hard for her, but that she enjoys being a teacher.
“I want to be playing football for as long as I can, but everyone has to have goals they want to achieve afterwards. It is crazy what you can do and achieve as a teacher. You don’t realise until you are in it and doing it. The feeling when you have young girls come up to you and say that they had never played football but now they love it is incredible. It is the same feeling as when you have won a game.”
Hinnigan also spoke about “trying to get Everton involved” by linking her teaching job with her football by showing her students what the team does.
She clearly has a passion for Everton and teaching others through sport, so wouldn’t it be perfect if Hinnigan were offered a coaching or leadership role at the club? She possesses all the traits of a great leader and role model and her dedication and hard work ethic through the years should be rewarded.
We don’t know everything that happened behind the scenes. Maybe Hinnigan was truly ready to leave Everton and start a new chapter in her life, but it is hard to see an Everton great leave the club at the young age of 27.
With Mark Sampson’s recent controversial sacking as England’s coach, there has been a spotlight on the demand for more female leadership in women’s football. The most recent WSL1, Euros, Olympics, and World Cup champions have all had female coaches and 92% of major championships have been won by female coaches since 2000. Everton Ladies would benefit by fostering leadership roles for former players.
Hinnigan spoke about the hard work she put into getting her degree and how she finds a lot of fulfillment in it. We are happy for her and wish her all the best in an admirable field.
With the club going full-time, it is sad to see an Everton legend leave one of her passions behind after she helped them achieve that status. It would be great to see her two passions come together through another role at the club.
At the very least, Michelle Hinnigan deserves a testimonial.
Thank you, Michelle, for everything you have done for Everton Ladies!
Michelle Hinnigan tweeted today that she is not retired “just yet” and that she will always be a blue even if her time with Everton has “come to an end for now”: