For millions of children up and down the country, being paid to play football is a bit of a pipe dream. But it is a reality for CV Life’s own Sarah Morgan, who by day is duty manager at the Alan Higgs Centre, but by night and at the weekend is a semi-professional goalkeeper for Derby County.
We caught up with Sarah this week to find out more about her career on and off the pitch.
After joining her first football team as a teenager, she played for hometown club Coventry City, making her debut while still in school. She then moved across the Midlands to Derby, where she has now made well over 150 appearances.
After paying her dues, both metaphorically and literally, Sarah is now enjoying the fruits of her efforts, earning some money from her football career, while also working at the Higgs.
“Women’s football has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years,” she said. “I never played football to get paid, just for the love of it, but to go from having to pay to play, to actually being paid to play, is fantastic.”
Football is a life-long passion for Sarah, and goalkeeper is a position that runs in the family. Her dad was a goalie too and was once a contemporary of Premier League-winning, England, Blackburn Rovers and Coventry City ‘keeper Tim Flowers.
“People told my dad he was as good as, or even better than Tim Flowers,” Sarah shared. “He would’ve made it professional if he’d been tall enough.”
But he passed his talent on to his daughter, and Sarah made her mark on the game from the off, making her debut for Coventry City aged just 15 – just a year after joining her first side.
Sarah said: “I always played football, at school or in the park, but I didn’t join my first team until I was 14. I played my first women’s game at 15 – it was just before the rule change came in that meant you had to be at least 16.”
Playing backup to Coventry’s first choice goalkeeper wasn’t something Sarah was keen on doing long term, so when Derby County came knocking for a second summer in a row, she caught the opportunity with both hands. There was a familiar face waiting for her in the East Midlands too, as her dad is County’s goalkeeping coach.
By 18 Sarah was combining her football journey with her CV Life one. A modern apprenticeship (MA) at the Alan Higgs Centre kicked her career off, and she hasn’t looked back since, rising to duty manager at the same site.
Discussing balancing her role as duty manager with her football career, Sarah said: “We’ve got a great bunch of staff here. Everyone is really supportive, and I manage to juggle both pretty well.
“I never wanted to go to university so the MA was the right decision and I was able to fit it around football – but sometimes that meant working double shifts on Satudays so I was free to play on Sundays!”
Playing for a club the size of Derby County comes with one or two perks. The men’s side of the club has had some rather high-profile managers in recent years, meaning Sarah has been mingling with some of English football’s most recognisable faces.
Sarah shared: “Playing for Derby means I got to meet Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney – two England legends which was amazing but I was a tad star-struck!”
Sitting in the third level of the women’s football pyramid, Sarah thinks Derby have a chance of promotion to the Championship in the coming seasons.
With that milestone just around the corner, her consistency proves what a level head and safe pair of hands Sarah is, both on the pitch and off it.
Sarah said: “We’ve got a good young side. This is my eleventh season at Derby so I’m one of the older ones. I think we’ll finish in the top five this season then build on it next season. Hopefully we’ll be in the Championship within a few seasons.
“I’m also hoping to reach 200 appearances for Derby, hopefully that’ll come next season.”
So keep up the amazing work both at Derby and CV Life, Sarah, and keep living the dream!