By: Hibernian Media on 29 Mar, 2020 12:48
Joelle Murray lives and breathes Hibernian FC. Captain of Hibernian Women and Girls Academy Manager with the Hibernian Community Foundation, there are very few moments when the club is not in her thoughts.
From the tender age of five Joelle was a regular at Easter Road, travelling from the Berwickshire village of Chirnside to attend matches with her dad.
“My dad was a massive Hibs fan so I followed in his footsteps from a young age. We used to sit in the old East terracing – it was fantastic and a day I always looked forward to.”
Joelle’s brother attended Easter Road once, and only once, after an unfortunate incident with a pie meant his interest waned before it had a chance to blossom.
“My brother wasn’t really interested in football at all. All he wanted was a pie. My dad had stood in the queue for a while and when he came back my brother put the pie on the seat next to him. The seat flipped back, and the pie went with it – so that was the end of it!”
Whilst watching Hibs in the late nineties Joelle became a big fan of Russell Latapy, with the tricky Trinidadian midfielder impressing her with his ability and skill on the ball.
“I loved Russell Latapy. He was a different player and the first I remember for Hibs that had something special.
“The way he conducted himself on and off the pitch was great. He was a flair player who danced around the pitch with the ball at his feet. He brought a huge amount of enjoyment to the club and on the pitch on matchdays.”
Growing up in a small village meant Joelle was the only girl in the area with an interest in playing football. With no option but to play with the boys, she learned her trade as a young player in a local boys’ team.
Joelle says she had never thought about playing for the team she supported, with her experiences as a fan and player very much separate when she visited Easter Road on a Saturday.
“The idea of playing for Hibs never crossed my mind. I was just enjoying what I had at the time and didn’t even really think about girls or ladies football or the fact there might be a Hibs team.”
As Joelle celebrated her 12th birthday she knew her days playing boys football were numbered, with league rules stating she would have to find a girls team if she wanted to continue.
As luck would have it, Joelle’s dad spotted an opportunity for her to progress into all-girls football whilst reading the newspaper.
“My dad saw an advert in the Pink for trials with Hibs Ladies and he took me up one day. The trials were at Meadowbank and I quickly got confirmation I was in.
“My first training session is memorable because the Ladies would train at St Mark’s Park and the youth teams would be on before they started.
“There was a bit of miscommunication around the timings which meant I ended up training with the Ladies and it stemmed from there!”
Pulling on the Hibernian shirt for the first time as part of the Ladies first team squad is a moment which filled Joelle with pride, but she had to be patient to stake her claim for a regular place in the side.
“I was extremely nervous because Hibs had a lot of experienced international players and big characters and there was me as a 17-year-old.
“I’d just finished playing for the Under-17s and made the transition to the Ladies and I was coming into an environment with the likes of Stacey Cook, Mandy Burns and Laura Kennedy, all established players with big personalities.
“In my first season with the Ladies I picked up limited game time but what I gained from that year was massive, even just training with more experienced players was huge.”
After years of attending Easter Road as a fan with her dad, Joelle got her own chance to take to the field when the Ladies faced German giants Bayern Munich in the Champions League in 2016.
Joelle says leading the team out as captain in front of 2500 Hibs fans was ‘something special’. It’s a moment she’ll never forget.
“The match was absolutely massive. There were so many emotions going through my head prior to kick off, the nerves and running through so many different scenarios in my mind.
“We always knew it was going to be a tough game but the whole occasion was absolutely incredible. The fans turned out in numbers and it was fantastic to walk out on a Champions League night under the lights at Easter Road.”
In her current role as Girls Academy Manager, Joelle is the face of many of the holiday camps and girls football initiatives run by the Community Foundation.
She believes everyone involved with the Ladies has an important role to play in encouraging the next generation of female Hibs fans to play football.
“I think it’s important for everyone involved with the Ladies, especially the players who have come through the academy, to be role models and looked upon as success stories.
“It shows the pathway in place does work, there have been multiple players who have come through and still play, either with Hibs or clubs down south and abroad.
“The one player in my era everyone looked up to was Julie Fleeting. Now there are so many role models, not just at Hibs but elsewhere and I think it’s massively important because it shows young girls there are opportunities to have a career in football.”
While offers from other clubs have come and gone throughout her playing career, Joelle has always opted to stay at Hibs – a sign of just how much Edinburgh and the club means to her.
“Football is my passion and the money doesn’t faze me or encourage me to go elsewhere. I’m a Hibs fan and I love the club and I want to better it on and off the pitch.
“When offers have come in it’s these factors I’ve thought about – I just want what’s best for the club. Looking at the bigger picture, staying at Hibs has been the better decision for me.”
Joelle, alongside goalkeeper Jenna Fife, became the first Hibernian players to be named in a Scottish FIFA World Cup squad since John Collins and Andy Goram travelled to Italy in 1990. Representing Hibs on the world stage is something which meant a great deal to her.
“It was fantastic to be involved in such an historic tournament and to have Jenna with me who was a Hibernian player at the time.
“To have the club’s name represented at such a huge tournament is fantastic and would only have done wonders for the profile of the club within the game.”
Despite her commitments with Hibernian Women and Girls Academy, Joelle still finds time to attend Easter Road with her dad on a Saturday afternoon, continuing the tradition from when she was a young girl.
She says her playing and coaching experience doesn’t get in the way of being able to enjoy the matches as a fan, just like she did when she first visited Easter Road.
“I can totally switch off. I don’t really think too much about it and still get caught up in the tense moments and the goal celebrations.
“I’m still off my seat cheering when a goal goes in, I like to completely switch off because generally a Saturday is my only day off from working, playing or training so I tend to go along purely as a fan and get caught up in the rollercoaster of the 90 minutes.”
Reflecting on how Hibernian has impacted her since childhood, it’s clear the club are engrained in Joelle’s day to day routine.
“Hibs have played so many roles within my life; I’ve been a fan, I’m a player, an Academy Manager – there have been so many roles that have involved Hibernian.
“The club are almost part of my family. Hibs have been with me for my whole life.”
Words: Daniel Shields.