Hand over the mic:
Adam Salter is an Arsenal superfan and a blogger extraordinaire. We caught up with Adam to chat about his journey into women’s football and why it is has become so important to his everyday life.
Adam meeting Arsenal players Jill Roord, Daniëlle van de Donk, Lia Wälti and Beth Mead.
2 August 2021
What was apparent from the onset was Adam’s unconditional commitment not only to Arsenal, but to women’s football as a whole, and so his very first statement upon being asked how this came to be was a rather surprising one.
“I hated football” he reveals, “I couldn’t stand it. I grew up in a house that had no interest in football. I didn’t come from a family of Arsenal fans who inducted me into it. The only sport we watched was Wimbledon tennis or perhaps the Olympics. Sport really had no place in our house.”
Adam goes onto recount his schooldays describing himself as an academic with little aptitude for playground sports. His parents’ decision to enrol him in after school football paired with the rather relatable conundrum of playground popularity only served to deepen his dislike of the beautiful game.
Yet, as the familiar tale goes, school politics demanded something of Adam. He applied himself to chancing football once again, this time trying his hand between the sticks.
It was here, during his first match in goal, that Adam recognises a lightbulb moment. “The first match, I did it. I saved a penalty and everyone went mad because they knew I was rubbish at sport. It was that moment where suddenly everything just clicked. I understood why football was great and I understood why it was such an amazing sport and I knew I wanted more of it.”
Adam's first visit to Meadow Park.
Interest piqued; Adam invested his curiosity in to Arsenal football club. However, it wasn’t until 2007 after flicking through the television channels and finding a match being broadcast on the BBC, that he was exposed to Arsenal’s women’s team.
The match Adam recalls is Arsenal’s FA Cup final against Charlton Athletic, in which the Gunners beat the Addicks 4-1. He honestly recalls that, at the time, it was “strange” to see a women’s side being shown on terrestrial television.
“I thought I’ll watch it. Arsenal is Arsenal, it doesn’t matter, man or woman.”
From that point, with a connection to women’s football born, Adam sought to follow the progress of both Arsenal men and Arsenal women. However, his newfound fondness of the women’s team was a frustrating venture compared to the easily accessible men’s side.
“I wanted to know more about them. But I didn’t because there was nothing out there. You’d go online and resources weren’t there to find out [about them]. You’d look on the TV and think, well, where are they playing, where are these games? The only games you saw were Lionesses games, and only occasionally.”
Adam recounts that this first exposure to women’s football turned out to be an exasperating affair. Admitting that he did not keep up with proceedings as much as he would have liked, Adam speaks in depth at the lack of televised coverage and archived reading material.
“Because there was never the coverage, I never really followed the leagues, never really followed the WSL. There’s a whole history that feels missed because the coverage wasn’t there.”
Moving on to speaking about the Lionesses, Adam notes that even for the national team, although exposure was marginally better, information was hard to come by. The 2009 European Championships, in which England reached the final, was a struggle to keep up with without personal research in sourcing the streaming of matches.
“Even then I couldn’t really watch it because it was all news reports after the event. It was a momentous achievement to get to the final. [They were] much more successful than the men’s side who, at the time, couldn’t even qualify for the European championships. It was almost like ‘secret football’ and we were doing really well but no-one really knows about it.”
After loosely following the Lionesses and their international successes for a number of years, Adam stumbled back into league football just as Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal were on the cusp of winning the Women’s Super League in 2019.
“I knew they were doing well. They had beaten Chelsea 5-0, gone to Brighton and won 4-0. And so, I followed their running and I thought, that’s it, I’m going to follow them properly now.”
This just so happen to coincide with coverage of the WSL. A handful of matches could be found on the BBC Red Button, BT Sport and occasionally on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.
As Adam recommitted, he reports a conscious effort to re-learn his team. Gone were Arsenal staples Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey and Alex Scott, in their place were Gunner legends in the making Vivianne Miedema and Daniëlle van de Donk. He thrust himself into every opportunity that presented itself, amongst them a meeting with four Arsenal players and a group zoom call with Kelly Smith. Research complete, in the winter of 2019 Adam attended his first game at Meadow Park; Arsenal versus Birmingham City.
Arsenal at Meadow Park.
“It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It was incredible. I’d been to Arsenal men’s games and you turn up and you get a win, it’s great, a good atmosphere, but there was something different about going to a women’s game at Meadow Park.”
“There was a closeness that you don’t get going to watch a game at the Emirates….it was like being part of a secret family, everyone was nice to each other, there was no nastiness. I thought it would just be local Arsenal fans, but there were people that had come over from other countries as well and I just thought, I need to do this again. An incredible experience.”
Of course, just a few months later the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the season, and indeed the country, were shut-down. Yet, with the magic of Jordan Nobbs’ wonder goal still fresh in his mind, Adam turned his attention to Twitter. After rejuvenising his account, Adam first entered a ‘pub quiz’ competition in which the winner would receive a follow from Arsenal football club.
“I won”, Adam recalls, surprise still evident on his face, “it was madness, I got a follow from Arsenal. It gave me confidence, and I thought maybe I can get some movement here. I started to talk about Arsenal, follow people who I knew liked Arsenal and just got some communication out there.”
With honesty, Adam identifies the negativity Twitter can dump on to one’s lap, yet earnestly appreciates the importance of the social media platform and its surface function to keep connected during the initial lockdown. Through his connections on Twitter, Adam was invited onto a podcast to discuss his thoughts regarding Arsenal’s one upcoming game, their Champions League quarter final clash against PSG.
“I ended up doing a few episodes with them and it was fantastic. I realised that I could actually have a valid educated opinion on women’s football.”
Adam’s developing knowledge left him with the feeling that Twitter no longer allowed him the space to stamp down his opinions. After seeking guidance from established writers, Adam set up his own website and has been regularly blogging ever since.
Reflecting on his experiences so far Adam monologues with great appreciation, sincerity pouring from every word.
“I owe women’s football a great deal of gratitude as it’s really taken me out of my shell. I’ve gone from doing my own thing, going to work and staying at home, to talking to people all over the world."
"I owe it to these small moments, passing moments that could’ve gone like dust in the wind. It’s just twisted my life in such subtle ways to put me where I am now. Now I just want to get back to Meadow Park and watch a game!”
As our interview drew to an end, Adam touched on where he thinks the future of women’s football is heading.
“Do I think it should be as good as the men’s? No. I think it should be better. Women’s football is a game that has its heart, there is a purity to it that I would hate to see tarnished, but at the same time it needs money.”
“We either need owners that put enough in to make it sustainable or the women’s teams [of affiliate clubs] will have to become separate entities, similarly to the London City Lionesses who were once part of Milwall. There needs to be a proper funding system in place moneywise to make it financially stable.”
“When you think talented players go [to other clubs] on a free. Van de Donk, which is madness. If Ronaldo left Juventus on a free the world would lose their mind. If women’s football is to remain sustainable, it needs to become so not just from a football perspective but from an economic perspective.”
“The new TV deals are great. Sky are on board and games on the BBC which is good so we can still watch some games live on a terrestrial channel. I want to see it grow, I want to see them playing in the big stadiums, I’m loving that the Champions League is getting bigger. I would love to see more teams in the WSL. Maybe 15 or 16 as the season sometimes feels too short. But clubs like Leicester I’m really excited to see, they [owners] really care about the club and are taking them forward. I’m hoping in the next 5-10 years we will have well run clubs that have investment and players have value, but I wouldn’t want it to get to the high financial price of the men’s because I think that would ruin it. But I think it’s a positive future.”
Rounding up his time in the women’s game so far, Adam eloquently wraps up his journey in women’s football with one touching statement.
“It’s been a heck of a ride from catching a glance at the TV to now, I wonder how things could’ve been different, but really I’m so glad things are as they are.”
Check out Adam's blog here:
Womens Football, Adam Salter, Arsenal Women, Arsenal, Women's Super League