IRISH soccer goalkeeper Emma Byrne, 34, is enjoying married life but is still adjusting to her new surname: Bignot.
“But what makes it worse is that I am taller than him,” she jokes, knowing her husband is within earshot. “I’ve changed my name on Facebook and on my bank account, but in football terms I’m still a Byrne.”
Marcus Bignot is a retired professional football player — he used to play for QPR and Millwall — and now manager of Solihull Moors. “And an aul fella — he’s going to be 40 in August,” she adds. “ He’s a sugar daddy. A poor sugar daddy.”
The couple got married last June and live in rural Hertfordshire, 20 minutes outside London and beside the Arsenal training ground, where Emma is goalkeeper of the club’s ladies team. But she still regards home as Leixlip, where her family — she is the youngest of four — is still based.
It was by chance she started the beautiful game at the age of 13. “I played a lot of gaelic sports and badminton and tennis and only got involved was because my friend’s mam was the manager of the local girls’ team. It was more the social aspect of it. I really enjoyed it and haven’t looked back since.”
Within a year she was playing for the Irish U16 team. After finishing school she went to Denmark to play full time.
“It was there I realised it is about people in football not football itself and I didn’t enjoy it very much over there. I had an apartment — I’d never lived on my own. I lasted a year and came home.”
Her next move came from the heart.
“I went to England because one of my best friends, Ciara Grant, was playing with Arsenal.”
It worked. She is still there 14 years later.
* Emma Byrne is supporting the Doritos Penalty Shootout competition. Fans have a chance to go up against Joe Hart to win the 'Ultimate Mates Football Trip'. See doritos.co.uk — entries close today.
What shape are you in?
Semi-fit because my knees are at me. I have a touch of arthritis from wear and tear. We train about 14 hours a week.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I like granola and fruit, smoothies and juices.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Crisps are my achilles heel. I also like healthy crisps sometimes I’m bad but good.
What would keep you awake at night?
After we’ve lost a game. It’s probably got worse over the years because I’ve got all my coaching badges, so I know what I’ve done wrong and what I could have done better.
How do you relax?
I watch TV and catching up on programmes. I love Game of Thrones and True Detective. And then there’s online shopping. It’s a guilty pleasure.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My dad Timmy, my husband and Roy Keane and Alan Carr. And I’d also like to meet Miriam O’Callaghan.
What’s your favourite smell?
I love fresh wild flowers like lavender and rape seed, you know summer is coming and you feel good.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
I’d like thicker hair — it’s easier to manage and put up. We are always tying our hair up and it breaks a little bit.
When did you last cry?
I very rarely cry over football. It’s usually going to be at a film. I watched My Sister’s Keeper last week — and that was it.
What trait do you least like in others?
Dishonesty and bitterness.
What trait do you least like in yourself?
I haven’t got as much patience as I’d like.
Do you pray?
Not as much as I used to. I used to say a lot of prayers when I was younger growing up. I don’t ask for anything, just general health and wellbeing.
What would cheer up your day?
I love babies and puppies and I don’t have enough of them in my life. When I get to go home that’s what cheers me up really. I have four nieces and two nephews.
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