Lincoln United Women's Ellie Gilliatt

Former England under-23s international Ellie Gilliatt has hung up her boots after a career that has reached the highest level of the women’s game.

The Lincoln United attacker Ellie Gilliatt announced her retirement at the end of the 23/24 season, marking an end to an over 20 year career. The Lincoln-born sparked he career in football aged just 14.

She spoke exclusively to The Linc after calling time on his playing career: “When I look back, in terms of injuries I’ve been quite lucky. At every club I’ve been one of the key players and I’m very proud of my longevity. I think 99% of games I’ve played, I’ve played 90 minutes in. I’m proud on reflection that even now when I’ve retired people still want me and I’m in good form.

“For me I want to always play at the highest level, I know I could play a few more seasons, but I would notice the slow decline. So, the timing with the treble, what more could I ask for. It’s heart-breaking for me but all good things must come to an end.”

She calls an end to her career after winning a treble in her final season. Lincoln United Women claimed an unbeaten promotion, alongside County Cup and League Cup successes.

The forward also played for Lincoln City Women during a career that spanned decades and saw many highlights. She ended it with a brace in United’s cup final victory.

Lincoln United Women seal East Midlands Womens Regional Premier Division title
Lincoln United Women won a historic treble this season. Credit: Ed Mayes Photography

Back to the Early Days:

Gilliatt looked back on her early career, saying: “My brother and brother in-law played football; I got my left foot from my brother in-law. There was no school teams for girls so training with the lads meant I got picked up by Lincoln City at under-14s. Before I was 15, I was playing women’s football, I got my first England call up at 15.

“I only played one season of youth football before stepping into senior football, so I was hot-headed back then and had a lot to learn. But I took to it like a duck to water, it never phased me and with the physicality from playing with the lads from a young age, senior football never really bothered me.”

Representing England and Balancing a Career:

Gilliatt represented her country up to under-23s, something that holds a lot of meaning to her.

“I was very proud to be able to represent my country. On a personal level it means a lot to me,” she said.

The former Sheffield United and Derby County forward reflected on the realities of being a women’s footballer before the modern-day peak in interested the game has seen.

She said: “Women’s football was just coming into fruition, but it was difficult to balance life and a job when your away for seven to ten days a month. I made the decision to step away from international football and it was the right decision for me.

“I had offers from Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool for three-year contracts but it wasn’t on the money I was earning working on the railways. Football is great but for how long, with form and injuries the opportunity on the railways meant I stepped down to WSL 2, which meant I could work and train. I don’t regret it though. In today’s era maybe it would’ve been different, but I don’t dwell on it.”

Lincoln United Women
Ellie Gilliatt was the top-scorer in her final campaign. Credit: Ed Mayes Photography

Years in Sheffield:

Gilliatt spent her prime years in Sheffield, with both Sheffield FC and Sheffield United.

She explained: “That’s where I grew up and came into my own. We won promotion to the WSL, with good runs in the FA Cup and League Cups. The seven years I spent at Sheffield FC were some of my best. Then at Sheffield United, I became the captain. I became a more experienced player. I was lucky to captain some really good players.”

During her time in the Steel City, she won three Women’s Premier Leagues and helped secure promotion into the top-tier for Sheffield FC.

“I’ve always put my all into football, so it’s been one of my better qualities, I train the way I play.” – Ellie Gilliatt

Gilliatt later made the move to Derby County, where she described her time as a “good stint”. She added that it was an enjoyable part of her career.

The forward planned on retiring after leaving Derby, but said former Lincoln United manager Chris Funnell persuaded her to come to the Whites. She spent the final two years of her career at Ashby Avenue.

“I had trained with them while I was at Derby just to get some fitness in, and the girls really appreciated me being there. He was very persuasive. In my first season there, we won the league cup and county cup. And then this season to play for my hometown and with my form, scoring 80 goals, to win the treble, it was the right way to say farewell,” she added.

What’s Next for Ellie Gilliatt?

Gilliatt refused to rule out a potential step into coaching, saying: “I had opportunities to continue playing or to go into coaching, but I just wanted a year away to reset my body and mind. It would be nice to come back and I would never say no for sure.”

She has now altered her training as she prepares to run a charity marathon for the Maddy Cusack Foundation, set up after the passing off her former teammate.

Ellie Gilliatt has enjoyed a long, and fruitful career. From representing England under-23s, captaining sides and winning promotion, she called an end to her career in the very city she was born in.

Feature Image Credit: Ed Mayes Photography

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