Matildas goalie off to Sweden

Matildas and Melbourne Victory Women’s goalkeeper Brianna Davey has hit the big time signing with Swedish Damallsvenskan team Linköpings FC.

Matildas and Melbourne Victory Women-s goalkeeper Brianna Davey has hit the big time signing with Swedish Damallsvenskan team Linköpings FC.

If this all sounds like a bit of a mouthful, we caught up with Brianna Davey before she departs this week to really find out what she knows about the Swedish league, the team she will play for and the environment she is heading into.

For this 18 year old superstar of Australian football, everything is a bit of a blur right now as she prepares for her hasty departure this week to assist a team steeped in success and tradition in arguably the best league in the world, the Damallsvenskan.

Linköping FC is a relatively young club founded in 2004 but very successful having won seven titles in eight years and developing one of the strongest brands for women-s team sport in Sweden.

It is half way through the 12 team Damallsvenskan and Linköpings FC are currently placed in fourth position on the ladder. They have recently completed the construction of a brand new stadium that hold 8,500 people (7,500 seated) with the club holding the attendance record with over 9,000 spectators to one of its matches.

The rush to sign Brianna came very quickly. The transfer window for the league closed on August 11 and combined with the unfortunate injury of Swedish National Team and Linköpings FC Goalkeeper Sofia Lundgren, the clubs management had grave concern for the keeper-s fitness.

Such a key omission during the run home meant the 2013 season was on the line.

So who you gonna call? The Goal-Buster!

Linköpings coach Martin Sjögren publicly praised the impending arrival of Davey to the club stating on the website that she is “probably the world-s most talented goalkeeper.” Talk about not putting any pressure on with that comment.

“There is no one else that age that has found a place as a regular in one of the world-s top eight national teams,” he said.

Maybe he had just finished reading “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens!

So let-s find out what the real scoop is on the whole trip to Sweden from Brianna herself.

Q: So Brianna, off to Sweden later this week. What do you know about the Linköpings Football Club?

Bri: All I know at the moment is that they are fourth on the ladder right now and one of the top teams in the league. They are very strong competitors year on year and are definitely finals contenders so I could be playing in the finals over there which would be really cool for my first time. Of course I know [2012 Melbourne Victory teammate] Petra Larsson who is playing at the club and she has filled me in stating they are a really good team and they will look after me. I am nervousvbut knowing Petra will be there and the good things she has said about the club I am sure it will be okay.

Q: How influential was Petra Larsson in you signing with the club given you were both team mates at Melbourne Victory last season?

Bri: Petra was the main reason behind me thinking seriously about accepting the offer; she was very influential in my decision and she gave me a call when I first got the offer as I wasn-t too sure about the whole thing. I was feeling very nervous and overwhelmed so Petra called me straight away and ran me through what it is like over there. She believed it would be great for me personally to come across and it would also be good for the team to have me there.

Q: The environments at Melbourne Victory and the Matildas are renowned for being close knit, how will you prepare fitting into a foreign environment like this? Can you speak or understand any Swedish at all?

Bri: *laughs* No I don-t know any Swedish apart from “Ja Ja” so perhaps I should have listened more intently to Petra last season. It-s always a difficult thing trying to fit into any team let alone a foreign one because it-s a different culture, a different style of play and different lifestyle so I will have to work hard to fit in with it all. It will be difficult but it is also an amazing opportunity and it is something I can certainly do. A real challenge.

Q: Not many Victory women have ventured outside Australia yet. Could you be the catalyst for others who seek playing overseas in the off-season?

Bri: For sure. Heading over to Linköpings brings exposure to the W-League abroad and will no doubt see some of the Swedish league players come across to Australia for the season ahead. It will also provide exposure for more of our Australian girls to get across to the Swedish League as well. On top of being good for me personally, it-s good for the other girls in the Melbourne Victory Women-s team and other female players around Australia for the future.

Q: Linköpings coach Martin Sjogren said publicly that you are probably the world-s most talented goalkeeper. That-s a massive wrap given Hope Solo is still running around right now. How do you feel about that type of comment and the pressure that brings?

Bri: To be honest, I was a bit gob-smacked when I read that and as you said USA-s keeper Hope Solo is still running around and she-s amazing. There are other really high quality international goalkeepers out there right now as well but it does give me confidence going there. As a result of those comments there is pressure and now I have been put up on a pedestal I really have to perform at my best when I get there. The headline makes my task all the more difficult to live up to those lofty expectations.

Q: I guess that-s the difficulty you face when you get into the elite category in any sport. Every time you step foot on the pitch there is a level of expectation to perform isn-t there?

Bri: Yeah exactly, anytime and every time. There are always expectations and after a wrap like that I will have to go over and play my socks off really.

Q: You have just completed a very successful Matildas campaign against New Zealand before heading o Europe beating France in a massive upset that propelled the team to number eight in the world. What is Hesterine de Rues like and what has she brought to the Australian team after the departure of the great Tom Sermanni?

Bri: Hesterine brings a very different style to the team and differs in the way she interacts with us. Tommy was more laid back with the girls whereas Hesterine is disciplined and structured in her approach. She has brought a different culture to the team from overseas but they are both great coaches and great personalities. Hesterine is really concentrating on bonding the team together - which we had previously - but she is trying to put a bubble around this as an important ingredient for our future success. From a team perspective she wants us to be a bit more disciplined in our defensive line. In the past we have been all about our attacking play and creativeness and getting forward so she really wants us to work on tightening our discipline in defense and then incorporating the movements up forward that we are well known for.

Q: We saw your amazing achievements in saving several goals against New Zealand in the penalty shootout. You seem to antagonize the opposition player before they shoot. What goes through your mind in those situations and what is your strategy to psyche the shooter off her shot?

Bri: I don-t even know if it works to be honest though it certainly did against the Kiwis in the last hit out. According to some people it does and several strikers have suggested it is off putting when I do that. I just like to get in their face a little bit and don-t give them too much of a chance to think about where they are going to shoot and not see the big wide-open goal when I stand back. I don-t say too much to them, it-s more just a presence that I want them to feel. It-s not something I was taught by anyone but something I use. The first time I did it was against Perth Glory in the semifinals of the W-League last season and I saved two goals in that game so I decided I would do it at every chance just to put them off their game.

Q: Currently you are the first choice ‘keeper for Australia and Lydia Williams seems to be a close second. How will you maintain your position as number one and how important is this move in the plan to do so?

Bri: Lids and I are always going to be neck and neck for the number one spot and the move to Sweden will be a very big thing for me in maintaining my position. I need to make sure I'm in the best training and playing environment possible in order to keep my skills up and continually improve so the move to Sweden will certainly assist in doing so.

Q: Brianna, for those who do not know a lot about you have you always been a goalkeeper and where and when did you first begin playing soccer?

Bri: I grew up playing AFL with the boys and basketball. When I got too old for footy and got over basketball I decided I wanted to play another sport, luckily whilst mucking around with a few friends at a caravan park when I was eleven a talent scout from Football Federation Victoria told me that I should start football so I did. I then played in the U16s at Brighton Soccer Club and from there won selection into the National Training Centre and here I am now heading to Sweden.

Q: What do you believe your strengths are as a goalkeeper given the amazing accolades this week?

Bri: My strengths are my communication and presence on the field. Goalkeeping isn't just about pulling off saves, there's a lot more to it as you are directing play out of defense and the pressure is always on around you. I am blessed at Victory and in the Matildas having my good mate and the very talented Stephanie Catley playing alongside me. She makes my job much easier (and writes for The Football Sack too - Ed).

Q: I know your dad Rob pretty well and you have a wonderfully supportive family. How will you go being away from them for an extended period?

Bri: I'll struggle a bit being away from home towards the start because I am very close to my family and friends. Once I've settled in it will become easier and they are only a viber message or call away.

Q: Will you back in time for the all-important W-League kick-off with Melbourne Victory and how did coach Dave Edmondson feel about the move?

Bri: Of course I will be back for Melbourne Victory, that's one thing I wanted to make sure of! It's my favourite competition for football and we are a big family. Dave was very supportive of the move and encouraged it given we are in the off-season right now.

Q: You frequently play with the NTC Girls in the boys competition and have firsthand access to the young Victorian talent coming through. What do you think the future looks like for Melbourne Victory in the years ahead?

Bri: The future for Victorian football is looking very positive. We have a great group of youngsters coming through and we are getting more and more girls into Australian squads now. In Canberra this week we have Beattie Goad, Eleni Fakos and Jess Pitts. And I think there is one more you might know of Craig - who is that again? (Craig-s daughter Maddy - Ed) So in terms of Melbourne Victory, yes I think the future is looking very bright and our squad will be stronger and stronger every year from here.

Thanks Brianna, hope all goes well for you in Sweden and don-t forget to polish up on your “Ja Ja!”