29 Aug ‘A Journey Of Purpose’ Yeovil Town Ladies FC Forward Annie Heatherson
We’ve had a pretty exciting summer here at Fusion keeping up with all the World Cup madness and, after the great response to our various competitions (and we hope the lucky winners are enjoying their prizes) we would like to share a story about the football team we sponsor, Yeovil Town Ladies FC! Or more specifically, one of their lovely players in particular.
Before joining with Yeovil Town Ladies, we were unaware that one of their players had a history of care. Annie Heatherson told us about her past and how it has shaped both who she is today and her outlook on the future. Her football career began early, and what a career it’s been: she is a previous Champion’s League qualifier, holding seven FA Cup Finalist medals with one Winner’s medal, three League Cup medals with two Winner’s medals, and has had three promotions into the highest level. She has also played professionally abroad and played for her own country several times!
But Annie didn’t get to where she is now without a fight, having to combat her own internal struggles as well as others telling her she wasn’t good enough. But let us start from the beginning. When she was just one year old, Annie was adopted into her aunt and uncle’s family. Her birth mum’s twin brother, Martin, adopted and raised her as his own daughter.
‘I’ve never known anyone receive the stupid amount of love I had from my dad. It was crazy. He treated me like his own child and I was loved like his own child, but unfortunately that isn’t all that’s required for a child in care’.
Annie Heatherson, Yeovil Town Ladies FC.
Growing up was challenging because Annie struggled with attachment and other problems that went along with not having her birth parents. For her, this led to aggressive behaviour and frequently getting into trouble due to hyperactivity.
‘Standing still and listening to my brain was totally not on my to-do list, so I got into a lot of trouble and wasn’t in a great place’.
Around the age of nine, Annie was getting into a lot of trouble in school for fighting and not listening to her teachers. After being advised by the school to involve Annie in an activity to challenge her mind, Martin decided to focus on her talent for football by joining the local club, Leyton Orient. From the very first session she began to show great potential, receiving lots of praise from spectators.
‘I told my dad “I want to play for England one day and be a pro footballer”. Back then people would laugh at you for saying things like that, but it was my dream’.
The club folded seven years later and she began to play for a women’s team at the age of sixteen, where unfortunately they didn’t take football very seriously. Deciding this wasn’t where she belonged, they searched for a Centre of Excellence (an FA funded club that focuses on the individual player) in order to get Annie on the pathway towards the England women’s team. A year after joining Charlton Athletic Ladies, Annie was told she wasn’t good enough and was dropped into a development team and had to pay for training.
‘It was my first knock back. I told my Dad I would fight, so I put my head down and I started to graft. I got myself back into the Centre of Excellence and was given the opportunity to trial for England by my manager. The England Women’s manager at the time, Hope Powell, said I’ll never make it as a footballer and I might as well play at grassroots’.
Three years later, that same coach selected her to represent England for the Under 21s and Under 23s. Annie then went on to play in five FA cup finals for Charlton Athletic and has played three League Cup finals.
‘I won my FA Cup Winner’s medal live on the BBC at Upton Park, my home town at the time, so that was very special to me’.
Unfortunately, Charlton Athletic folded two years later. Injured at this point and experiencing a loss of confidence, Annie decided to spend the summer playing professionally in Iceland to get fit, preparing her to join the Fulham team back in the UK. It wasn’t long before the team got promoted, Annie winning top goal scorer in the league only to shortly after move to Millwall who then also won the league. Soon after getting signed by Chelsea in 2010 to prepare for the Women’s Super League 1 division, she decided to travel over to America where she helped the Buffalo Flash win the USL W-League final in LA.
‘We became champions. It was a dream come true which is something everyone needs to experience. I then came back to England where I was offered a job for Bristol Academy as an ambassador for the club. The community work was amazing; our attendance went from two hundred to two thousand which was incredible’.
The new Bristol manager came in and told Annie that she wasn’t good enough for that level, causing her decision to retire and enjoy life. Instead, Yeovil Town pursued her, trying to sign her to their team. She has now been at Yeovil for four years. They have now been promoted and are officially a professional team in the WSL 1 league!
After very humbly telling us about her inspirational career and obvious love for football, she opened up about her personal life, how adoption has affected her, and how it has influenced her to help others in similar situations.
‘I’ve never been an academic person; I’ve done a total of four years of college and never passed anything. I managed to go to university and dropped out as I struggle with the basics of reading, writing and basically just concentrating, but I’ve worked hard to become better’.
Living with an adoptive family affected Annie, despite being related by blood.
‘When I was younger I really struggled with rejection, attachment, loneliness and loss. These are natural things some kids go through when they fear they may lose a great family. I spent a lot of time covering these wounds up until 2012’.
In 2012, one thing after another started to go wrong for Annie, and these vulnerabilities started to crack the surface. Her cousin died of lymphoma cancer which knocked her into a depressive state, but luckily she was able to turn her focus to fitness and nutrition which helped lessen the fears of loss. She then experienced a huge set back when her Nan passed away a month later, but managed to use her previous experience as a way of moving forward. After then separating after a year with her wife in 2016, Annie was forced to give up her home, even her dog, deepening the loss even further. She kept on, however, and managed to cover it up until losing her brother, who died from an aneurism on the brain last September.
‘This set me back and I broke down into a suicidal depression. My life had caught up with me and I now had no choice but to live in it. I prayed that I would get through it, and if I did get through it I’d spend the rest of my life helping both people who struggled with Mental illness and those that have gone through adoption or fostering’.
Annie has spent the last eight months learning to understand her behaviour, why she acts and feels the way she does, and where it might have originated from. In her own time, she has been studying psychological behaviour and how people are conditioned by our parents and our past.
‘I’ve made it my soul purpose to help others in down situations. I’ve read over fifty books, hundreds of journals, and a thousand hours of YouTube to better my understanding of myself and to become a better person. I think with all the work I’ve done on myself it’s probably equivalent to a degree in terms of time and information I’ve taken on, proving to myself that I had the capabilities to study and get grades. Unfortunately, my overactive mind wasn’t allowing me’.
Of course, when we met Annie and heard her story we just had to tell it. We live for the positive outcomes at Fusion, and her incredible outlook on life is what we look to inspire in all of our own foster children. If anything, Annie has proven that nothing is impossible if you really push for it. With the right encouragement, it is possible to get through the worst times in your life by focusing on building a positive future.
‘I would not change one thing about my past; I’ve had the most amazing life anyone could ask for. My future is bright because of my past and I’m excited about the journey I’m on right now’.
Annie has been fortunate enough to have benefited from a sense of belonging and permanence within her adoptive family. This security has assisted her to be successful and happy, feeling supported by people that care.
Here at Fusion Fostering we are proud of our own success stories, with the help of dedicated and special people who can offer the same level of stability through fostering.
There continues to be lots of children across the country in need of permanence and support through fostering and there is a shortage of over 7000 foster families. Can you help? If you are interested in fostering or would like to know more about Fusion Fostering or Yeovil Town Ladies FC, follow the links below!
Photo of Annie, her Dad and Step Mum