“The most important thing I’ve learned from football is how to work as part of a team”

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Gillian Coultard, MBE, is a warehouse operative at Teva’s Ridings Point facility in West Yorkshire, UK. Former captain of the England women’s football team, she is the first woman to have played in over 100 international games for England and overall has made 119 international appearances, making her one of the most prolific international players in English soccer history.

I work in the warehouse at Ridings Point. I pick products, I drive a truck, I do replenishments, I do quite a lot of varied jobs within my shift. No two days are ever the same, it all depends on the customers and the orders. And that’s good because you know you're going to be doing something different every day.

I'm the youngest of a family of eight, I have four brothers and three sisters. I always tagged along with my oldest brother and football was what I wanted to do from a young age. I was always kicking a football and then I watched the FA Cup finals and thought, "I want to play for England”. And I was fortunate enough to do it 119 times, to captain the England team and play at Wembley. I was the first person to score a goal for England in the women’s World Cup. All of my dreams came true. Believe in your dreams.

I started playing football on our local green with other families, then I played football in primary school. But when I went to secondary school, I was told I had to play the girls' games, which were hockey and netball. Luckily, my PE teacher took me to see Doncaster Belles, a local women’s football team who just happened to be one of the best teams in England. I joined the team when I was 13 and I had my first England trial the same year. I played my first match for England in May 1981, against the Republic of Ireland. We won.

A player who was coming to the end of her career as I was starting mine said, "You're only as good as your last game”. If you don't give 100% in that game, you might not get picked for the next one, so that's how I looked at it. And fortunately for me, I never missed any games through injury. I was never left out of the team, other than the last game of my football career, which was against Norway. That was my 119th appearance and that was it. Once that happened, I thought, it’s time to hang the boots up.

Gillian Coultard football photo 1024x308.jpg

The most important thing I’ve learned from my football career is how to work as part of a team. Here at Teva, teamwork is important or we won’t get the job done. I look at other people and how they work, they have different skills to me, different ways of working and what they’re doing is just as important as what I’m doing. We’re all working together, working to help each other and get products out to patients.

I always strive to do my best. That’s what motivates me, my 8-hour shift is my 90-minute match. If I hit my targets, I’ve won. Otherwise I’ve lost. I’m used to playing as a part of a successful team, the desire to win never goes away.

Because I was first female footballer to play 100 times for England, people assumed I would have been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) years ago. But it wasn’t until 20 years after I retired from playing that it happened.

I was at work when I received the email from Buckingham Palace about the MBE and I thought first, is it a scam. I showed it to my team leader and asked her what did she think? She told me to ring them. So, I rang up and said, I’ve just had this email and I’m checking to see if it’s true. The man on the phone said, “I’ve just had 30 calls with the same question”.

The notification came at the start of December last year, but the list of MBE awards wasn’t going to be made public until December 31st and you're not allowed to tell anybody you’re on it. I’d just come off my shift at 10pm when the list was announced and I didn’t get to bed until 3am because of the number of people getting in touch to congratulate me. It was absolutely unbelievable.

I haven’t received the MBE yet in person because of COVID but I’m looking forward to going to Buckingham Palace for it when I can. I’ve got my scroll though, which has been signed by the Queen. I still have to pinch myself really when I think about it, to be honest. I've waited that long for it, now that I’ve got it, I can't really digest it.

To achieve success in life, always do a good job, whatever you’re doing. I like my job, I like to get those tablets out the door, to get them out to the patients that need them. Commit yourself, don’t do it half-heartedly. You’ve got to give 100%. I like to think I give 100% for Teva.

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