After some time home to regroup, I thought it was time to give a recap of my Arsenal experience.
A few weeks ago, we wrapped up the 2017/2018 FA Women’s Super League season. It was a season of a lot of mixed results for us, but in the end was a season of growth. We got third in the FA WSL table, excruciatingly just missing out on a Champions League spot for next season, made it to the final of the FA Cup, eventually losing to a fantastic Chelsea team, and won the 2018 Continental Cup trophy, which is the League Cup.
After spending 18 months in North London, it was time for it all to come to an end for me and come back to the United States. It was a wonderful experience and one that I will cherish forever. Being part of Arsenal Football Club was special, and it was exciting for me to be part of a big club environment. It was fascinating to go to all the men’s games and to be present for Arsene Wenger’s last season. I was able to shake his hand on the day he announced stepping down and it is memory that will last a long time for me.
— Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly) May 23, 2018
It also felt great to bring a trophy back to the club. Arsenal is about playing quality football, winning trophies, and bringing pride to the community, so it was an honor to be able to contribute to that. Also, if I was able to influence any young players, outreach to the community and the fans, and I hopefully got some more girls in England to play and love the game, my time there was a big success!
Another amazing experience was taking part in the FA Cup Final at Wembley just a month or so ago. There were 45,000 fans in that stadium and it was incredible to see how much the game has grown. Across the globe, women’s football is getting more and more respect and support, and it was great to see. The same weekend there was 51,000 at a game in Mexico! There is a long way to go, but the small steps are worth celebrating. We didn’t win that final however, and so that hurt. Chelsea was the better team that day, with Fran Kirby and Ramona Bachmann lighting it up. The good thing is, I know Arsenal will be back, and I can’t wait to cheer them on. The team is composed of some world class talent, with Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little leading the way.
I am also looking forward to Arsenal Women continuing their quest for Champions League hardware. With unity and hard work, they will get back there. This I know!
I am very grateful to the club, and to the two managers that I had there – Pedro Martinez Losa and Joe Montemurro – and the General Manager, Clare Wheatley, for their outstanding leadership and belief in me and for having me take part in the fantastic organization! Arsenal are continuing to find ways to improve and push for professionalism of the women’s game, and it will be exciting to watch it continue for years to come. The FA is also investing a lot into the FA WSL and will be tweaking the format next season. The demand for professionalism from clubs comes with growing pains, but I truly believe that the English league is really promising and I am sure a lot of talent will continue to flow to England to ply their trade.
I hope to be able to return one day soon and learn from Joe, and get my coaching badges over there when the time is right for that.
My 18 months in London were certainly an adventure. And when adventures are over, it can be really sad. Although it was closing another chapter in my football life, I know that future chapters will be bright as well.
The good news is, life is one big adventure. I have been back at home in Chapel Hill, NC gearing up for what is next.