Talking to Hannah about her childhood makes you realise how far female football has come. Whilst we, of course, have mixed girls’ and boys’ teams today, that isn’t the only option for young girls anymore.
What’s more, girls now have more role models in the game to look up to, a generation of talent that Hannah is firmly part of. Hannah still had influences on her at a young age, one’s she looks back on fondly.
“The big influence for me when I was younger was Kelly Smith; she was the one that a lot of girls knew about and certainly who I knew about and watched.
“I was lucky enough to play against her as well. I say lucky, but she was obviously an unbelievable player! But just to play against someone I grew up idolising was incredible.
“Emma Wood, who was a coach at Brighton when I was 10, she was a big influence, very complimentary of my football. I was then lucky enough to play under her at Charlton when I was 14, and to this day we’re still very close.”
Hannah stood out at Polegate Grasshoppers and it wasn’t long before she was being noticed. She was scouted for Brighton’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) aged 9, with things about to become all very surreal for a young girl of that age.
“I guess at Brighton CoE is where it sort of got a bit more serious. I think I was around 10 years old, if I remember correctly, where I was scouted for their under-10s team before joining Chelsea for a year at under-12s.
“I think you're just happy to play football, but, I do remember being younger and Chelsea being one of the big clubs and you used to play the games at the training ground.
“Obviously, as a kid, you’re just coming into the training ground like ‘oh my god, all the men train over there.’ I was just there as an innocent kid but definitely, back then, it was a surreal moment.
“I think you just look now, especially with the Chelsea Women, we've got our own building, whereas before we didn't even have that, I remember we were sharing with, the Academy side. We've got our own pitches now and we're actually a big part of that training ground.”
It was a struggle at first for Hannah to hold down to one team. Mentally, for a young girl, it was hard for her to deal with the setbacks. How she dealt with them, has made her who she is today.
“When I trialled to stay at the Chelsea Academy they basically said that I was too small, and I’d struggle on the bigger pitches. I went back to Brighton and they sort of said the same thing. It was basically a case of if you didn’t grow before Christmas or something, then we’re not going to keep you.
“But for me, as a kid, that really hit me hard. I couldn't work on it, it's not something where I was being told what I need to get better at. Whereas obviously height-wise there’s nothing I can do so I was heartbroken.
“Me and my mum didn't really know what to do. Then, as I mentioned, Emma Woods, she was at Charlton at the time and we were still good friends from Brighton. She basically just said, come for a trial at Charlton then thankfully I got in. I had the best four years there, so I did move about a bit as a kid!
“I remember training would start around 6pm and some days I would come out of school a bit earlier, which I loved although my mum, wasn't too happy! But I loved it because I felt a big deal being pulled out of class early to go to Charlton!
“My first year there we nearly went unbeaten and had a great coach called Martin. He was unbelievable and for me, getting that training helped me a lot technically.”
Hannah had a successful time at Charlton Athletic, but there was one club that she had unfinished business with, and soon the opportunity would present itself for her to address that.
“When I reached under-16s at Charlton, I had the choice to stay on there or move back to Chelsea. All my friends were at Charlton, so it was a really tough decision, but I decided to go back to Chelsea and join their academy side. I remember I cried because I knew I was leaving Charlton.
“I moved away from home, started at college up there, and then I think it all got a bit more serious. I was playing for the college team, as well as Chelsea Academy and being offered trials to play for the reserves. But at the time I just didn’t think I was good enough for the reserves, so I didn’t trial for them, and at the weekends I was going back home and playing for Eastbourne Ladies because I just lacked a bit of self-belief.
“In my second year at college, I had gained a bit of the belief in myself, and I went and trialled for Chelsea Reserves. I was around 17 years-old then, and luckily, I got in, and things went from there really.
“I ended up doing an extra third year at college just to stay up here, as I needed somewhere to stay, in-order to remain in the Chelsea setup. The college were good to me, they said well as long as you are studying you can stay in our accommodation still.
“During that third year is when Emma [Hayes] (Chelsea Women manager) came in and I think she just saw something in me and started to get me involved with the Chelsea first-team. Then I remember her saying, ‘do you want to live up this way?’ I was lucky enough that they [the club] managed to sort me and Drew [Spence] (Chelsea teammate) out with a flat right next to the training ground, and I’ve lived up here ever since.”