Durham University postgraduate Kathryn Hill is to be named the North East Football Writers’ Association Women’s Player of the Year at their 40th annual dinner on Sunday 23 February.
Hill, a tough-tackling right-back, plays her club football for Durham Women Football Club, a team flying high in second place in the second tier of English women’s football, the FA Women’s Championship.
She follows in the footsteps of teammate Beth Hepple, who won the award last season after rising through the academy ranks and then breaking into the first-team squad at New Ferens Park.
The event will see Hill collect her award alongside Newcastle United’s Fabian Schär and Sean Longstaff, who have been named Men’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year respectively.
“It’s nice to be recognised as an individual but also nice as it reflects the team and how well we are doing,” Hill told Palatinate.
“It’s been hard at times as we train a lot and dedicate a lot of time to football but it’s also been good as it allows for an escape from working. I think it’s fine if you can find a good balance and obviously getting a degree too.”
Having started her career with childhood club Glasgow Rangers and after playing international football with Scotland’s youth and senior sides, Hill moved to the US in 2015, joining Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, on a scholarship.
She played for the University’s football team for two years, captaining them during 2016 and winning a host of awards during her final season.
Named the team’s most valuable player, her sporting and academic achievements meant she also added all-Conference USA honours, C-USA All-Academic First-Team honours and C-USA Commisioner’s Academic Medals to her name.
In 2017, Hill returned from across the pond to join Durham Women as part of the club’s link to the University. As part of the sports scholarship scheme, which has also seen the likes of Iris Achterhof and Molly Sharpe sign for the Wildcats, she has combined playing in the Championship for her club and in BUCS for her university with a master’s degree in education over the last two years.
“I think in terms of the Championship it’s definitely a competitive league. Every game is difficult and that’s what I like about playing in England. “I loved America but felt it was focused more on being an athlete and not technically as good.”
Durham have enjoyed a stellar campaign so far this season, winning 10 of their 14 games with an attacking brand of football seen in games such as a 5-1 away win at Leicester City on the opening day of the season and a 4-1 win at Crystal Palace in mid-December.
What was set to be their biggest game of the season − a promotion six-pointer against the unbeaten league leaders Aston Villa − was postponed on Sunday 9 February due to adverse weather conditions.
At the time of writing, that game is yet to be rescheduled, and Hill and her teammates are not letting the Villans’ form unnerve them − they are together as one and focused on getting more points on the board.
“Having a good team spirit and wanting to work for each other,” Hill answered when asked what the key factors behind their high-flying campaign have been and what’s next for the team.
“It’s much easier to go out [on the pitch] on a Sunday when everyone’s on the same page and wants to win for each other.”
“I think just one game at a time, and focus on winning and seeing where that leaves us at the end of the season.”
Such sentiment is common among managers and players keen to urge caution against overexcitement and overconfidence, but it’s a mantra which has been to Durham and Hill’s benefit this season.
Image: Durham Women FC