Ten-year Rafferty wants derby win
news Tue 5 Dec 2017
Chelsea Ladies' home game against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night will be a very special occasion for Claire Rafferty and we caught up with our long-serving left-back ahead of her big day.
The 28-year-old recently extended her contract with the Blues until the end of the season and the midweek London derby will celebrate her 10 years of service to the club.
The left-back joined us in the summer of 2007 and she has been through it all with the Blues as we made the transition from also-rans to a club which can now compete with Europe's elite.
Ahead of our final Continental Tyres Cup group game, which is against Spurs at Kingsmeadow and kicks off at 7pm on Wednesday night, supporters are requested to take their seats early for a special pre-match presentation. There will also be a commemorative poster which will be handed out at the ground on a first come, first served basis, subject to availability, as well as a few other surprises on the night.
'I’m getting nervous about it, I actually am,' joked Rafferty ahead of the game.
'I think a few people have been confused by it. I’ve been asked, “Are you picking the team? Is it going to be a load of random people playing?” No – it’s a normal game, just one that is dedicated to me! But I’ve actually been winding everyone up by saying I am picking the team, just to try and make sure they train even harder than usual. A few will be told they are not in the squad.
'I’m going to have a bit of fun with this, but it’s also clearly a game we need to win, so I don’t want too much attention drawn to the occasion. I’d rather we just won the game and then had a little party after!
'The Raffertys will be out in force for this one; my direct family will certainly be there and I expect a few friends, too.
'To be honest, I’ve been quite unassuming about it because I don’t want all the attention. I’m pretty sure my mum and sister are working behind the scenes to do something, I can tell. I think there might be a few surprises.'
That the game is taking place at Kingsmeadow, means a lot to Rafferty, who has had a few different home stadiums in her time with the Blues but none have had the same homely feeling as our ground in Kingston-upon-Thames.
'We started out at Imber Court, in East Molesey, and I don’t think we had too many fans then, which is a shame because it was a really good ground for the level we were at,' she said.
'Imperial Fields was next, in Morden, and the pitch there was terrible. We moved there before the Women’s Super League began and we played the first-ever game in the competition against Arsenal. I think Gilly [Flaherty] got the winner for them.
'I could have scored, too It was like a sandpit in the goalmouth – otherwise I might have scored in the first game.
'That would never happen at Kingsmeadow. The pitch is absolutely immaculate. It’s a privilege to play it and we have a little saying in the group: “If you can’t play on this, you can’t play at all.”
'I also feel we’re attracting a lot more people, it feels like we’ve got a real identity. We’ve been winning so many games since we’ve been there and playing such entertaining football, progressing in the Champions League, so it’s quickly become home.
'At Staines, where we played the previous four years, I never felt that attachment with the ground. I know we had some great times there, but we didn’t have that same feeling as we’ve got at Kingsmeadow already.
'We even have people chanting. It’s so funny. I think we need to get a drum to them and start handing out hymn sheets.'
Having played out her entire career with London clubs, after beginning her career with Millwall, Rafferty is also looking forward to the prospect of taking part in her first game against Tottenham Hotspur.
'It’s funny that we’ve never played them before, because there is such a big rivalry between the two men’s teams,' she said.
'It’s a game we are expected to win, but that counts for nothing unless you perform. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s men’s football or women’s – Chelsea versus Tottenham is a derby and there is always a lot at stake.
'I’m even more desperate to win because I don’t want anyone blaming it on the game being dedicated to me! Forget everything else that comes with the day, a win would be the best present.'
One thing is certain, though: if the Blues are awarded a penalty, Rafferty is adamant she won't be stepping up to take the spot-kick.
'Have you ever seen me take a penalty?' she joked, alluding to her missed spot-kicks in shoot-out defeats for both Chelsea and England in the past.
'I’ll be happy if the ref awards us a soft one, but there’s no way I’ll be stepping up to take it with the players we’ve got in our team. It’s a proper game, we want to win!'
- Wednesday's game at Kingsmeadow kicks off at 7pm. Tickets are £3 adults, £1 juniors and seniors