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Everton’s Megan Finnigan: ‘You learn so much from talking to Jill Scott’

A year ago, Megan Finnigan would have declined all invitations to yoga classes. “I never thought I’d be the type who got into it,” says the versatile Everton defender. “But then came lockdown and now I am that person.”

The 22-year-old describes her new passion with the zeal of the converted, leavened by some characteristically self-deprecatory humour. “Anyone will tell you I’m the stiffest person they’ve ever met,” she says. “I can’t dance or anything but yoga’s really helped my football; it’s improved my flexibility.

“You develop so much strength – and it helps your mind, too. Sometimes, when it’s a bit of a mad day and I feel a bit stressed, I know I need to do my yoga just to chill out. I’m trying to get my mum into it, I know it would do her good.”

If yoga has played its part in Finnigan’s record as a virtual ever‑present in Willie Kirk’s side this season, so too has the stability of family life. “I still live with my mum, dad, brother and a little dog, a cocker spaniel called Snoop. We’re really close and I feel so grateful to have had them around during the lockdowns.”

If the past year’s restrictions have hit humans hard, many dogs have been in heaven. “Like most people I’ve walked a lot,” Finnigan says. “And Snoop’s really got me into it. I don’t think he’ll like it when life normalises, he’s ridiculously needy! We got him a few months before the first lockdown and we don’t know how we’d have got through without him.”

As a puppy, Snoop made a clandestine visit to Finch Farm, the training base Kirk’s squad share with Everton’s men – and where Carlo Ancelotti can often be seen jogging on a treadmill – but now Finnigan hopes for a more formal return.

“I’ve been speaking to our media team about what we should do differently when fans are allowed back,” Finnigan says. “I think Everton should be the first club to use dogs as mascots. They’re such amazing animals.”

Until fairly recently she was studying part-time for a geography degree but the emphasis on statistics failed to appeal to a mind as creative as hers. “I had to give it up. It was just too much to balance with football. I’d still like to get a degree at some point, although whether it’s geography I’m not so sure. I loved the human geography side of things but the scientific stuff went above my head a bit. It’s very statistical.”

A love of travel – to the US in particular – means she will always adore atlases and globes. “From a young age I always had a fascination with doing a sports scholarship in America. That was my dream but then one of my England youth coaches said going might mean I’d not get selected for England camps and I decided against taking that risk. It means I’ve been at Everton since I was nine, but it’s the right place for me. I never want to leave.”

Her horizons have been broadened by frequent North American holidays: “Last summer I had to cancel a trip to Miami, Las Vegas and Los Angeles but this year I’ll go anywhere that’s got a bit of sun.”

A pre-season football tour would be similarly welcome. “The summer before last Everton went to Amsterdam to play Ajax in a mini‑tournament, which was great. We also had a fun camping trip to Wales. Those are the times you really get to know one another as a team and start building memories.

“We’re still a pretty together squad but it’s been massively hard not to be able to socialise together since Covid. We had one good night last summer when we all sat around, had a few drinks and enjoyed each other’s company. You see people in a different environment and really get to know them.”

She has also established a proper rapport with Kirk this season. “I think he understands me as a player more and he’s put a lot of trust in me which I massively appreciate,” says the central defender, who is expected to agree a new contract this summer. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my game, both on and off the ball, which I lacked before. I’m the type of player that needs to know I’ve got the manager’s belief.”

It helps that a team aiming, in Finnigan’s words, to “bridge that gap with the top three” next season have the veteran England midfielder Jill Scott on loan from Manchester City. “You just learn so much from little conversations with Jill and hearing about how she goes about her daily life. We’re a young team and it’s so important to have players like that around. Willie Kirk’s an approachable guy – and his banter’s decent – but he likes players to take responsibility for driving standards and Jill does that.

“She can have a laugh; you see her in the gym dancing – and she’s certainly got some moves up her sleeve – but Jill knows when to switch on and focus.”

Finnigan would relish following in Scott’s international footsteps. “I know it might never happen,” she says. “But I’m not too shy to say that playing for England will always be my ambition.”

Get to know the players in England’s top flight better with our WSL player in focus series. Read all our interviews here

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