Davies will be making her Varsity debut on Sunday after not playing for the University last yearKane Smith/kanesmithphotography

With less than 48 hours to go until the Abbey Stadium grass is chewed up in this year’s Varsity Football matches, Cambridge University Association Football Club (CUAFC) Women’s striker and top scorer, Erin Davies, is ready to be let loose against the Dark Blues on Sunday (13/3), as the hosts will be looking to bounce back from last year’s 3-0 defeat.

Raised in Hertfordshire, Davies began her footballing career at nine years old in Hitchin, playing grassroots football for a couple of seasons before joining Cambridge United’s Centre of Excellence for a year. She then moved to MK Dons’ academy, remaining there until she went senior at the age of fifteen. During sixth form, Davies played for Cambridge City Ladies FC, where she enjoyed winning a league title and promotion.

She then moved to the States for a Soccer Scholarship programme at American International College, Massachusetts. After staying there for a year, she returned to the UK to study her degree at Cambridge, where she’s now in her second year of reading law and her first season of banging in goals for CUAFC. Quite the wrap sheet or, as Davies likes to put it, “uni dropout come to Cambridge”.

“My sister, who’s seven years younger than me, can now look up and go: ‘I want to be a professional footballer’”

Travelling across the Atlantic to play football is not something many players can say they’ve done before, but Davies recalls the exciting attitude towards women’s football out in the States as a compelling factor for making the journey: “In America, football is seen as a women’s sport, so the participation is a lot wider.

“It was really good. I kind of got treated like a professional footballer, which is also one of the reasons you want to go there. You train everyday and have two or three games a week, which is quite intense but good.”

As part of the scholarship, Davies’ tuition was funded by the college. “If you’ve played football in England at a decent level,” she explains, “then they pretty much pay for your degree.

“It’s very different to university sport here, where you’ll come to uni, trial for the uni football team, and play however many times throughout the year, but over there you’re getting paid to play through your degree, so as much as school is really important, playing well and not being injured is important for scholarship money.”

Davies balances her law degree with playing for both Cambridge City Ladies and CUAFC WomenCambridge University Association Football Club

Despite living out her footballing dream in America, however, Davies returned to England to pursue her Cambridge degree after getting an offer before embarking across the pond. Touching on why she decided against staying out there, Davies says: “I think I’ve always prioritised the academic side of things, and from a younger age knew I wanted to do something to do with law. I always knew I wanted the academic route, especially when I was younger at a time when women’s football here wasn’t paid well.

“It’s only been in the last few years that women’s football has become professional, to the point where my sister, who’s seven years younger than me, can now look up and go: ‘I want to be a professional footballer’. When I was her age, I could say that but the likelihood of getting any money doing it and having a lifestyle where I could work towards that was very minimal - you’d have to work other jobs.”

“[Cambridge is] a good city to start fostering equality and visibility of women’s football, especially with the University as well”

Although recognising this positive cultural shift in domestic women’s football, Davies stands firm on her academic aspirations: “If I was in my sister’s situation now, I probably would still want to pursue the academic side of things because I think there is sometimes a lot of academic sacrifice if you decide to play. For me at the time, I could’ve chosen to go higher but I wanted to stick with school.” She jokingly confesses: “I’m a bit of a nerd, like we all are here!” - a statement I don’t think many of us students can refute.

Rejoining Cambridge City in her first year at University, Davies initially opted against getting involved with CUAFC due to those all too familiar academic commitments. But now in second year, she dons the light blue uniform during the week and City white on the weekend, successfully playing for both sides. “The CUAFC team and players were just absolutely lovely from the beginning,” Davies fondly remembers, “so I decided to balance both and I definitely don’t regret it.”

Having been a part of Cambridge’s two biggest women’s squads at different points in her life, Davies gives her thoughts on the city’s footballing environment: “Outside of the University, I think the football scene is quite good because you’ve had City and United, who are both local rivals, playing at the same level for the last few years. For that reason, women’s football in the city is quite visible, and there’s reporting in Cambridge newspapers which is definitely positive.


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“I think that’s now translating to University football too, as there’s more coverage on the women’s side of it and I don’t get the feeling, in Cambridge personally, that football is viewed as predominantly male. Back home, I’ll tell people I play football and they’ll give me the energy that it’s a boys’ game, but in Cambridge it’s not like that at all. It’s a good city to start fostering equality and visibility of women’s football, especially with the University as well.”

Now focusing on Sunday’s game, Davies reckons that the Light Blues can find another gear despite enduring mixed fortune this season: “There’s been a few results that don’t reflect what our team can do.” Cambridge have suffered from extensive injuries throughout their campaign, but still managed to escape relegation in a BUCS Midlands Tier 1 division that they were newly promoted to last year. Meanwhile, Oxford have been battling it out in the league below, currently sitting third.

“I think we’re going into Varsity knowing that we can play at a higher intensity than Oxford can,” she says, “and with a fully strong squad we can hopefully produce what we know we are capable of producing.”

Davies’ Cambridge side will be in action from 1:30pm on Sunday at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium, as the Light Blues look to rectify last year’s defeat and return to the winning ways of 2019, when they emerged 3-1 victors.