Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Cliftonville defender Billie Simpson's stunning goal is worthy of FIFA's Puskás Award, says boss

And the player herself reveals she had to defy her manager to make it happen

Billie Simpson has netted what may well be the best goal you'll see this season.
Billie Simpson has netted what may well be the best goal you'll see this season.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Sometimes turning a deaf ear to your coach can pay off, and when it does, it's usually spectacular.

That was definitely the case for Cliftonville Ladies defender Billie Simpson, who has catapulted Northern Irish women's football into the media spotlight with one swing of her notorious right boot.

The 26-year-old has scored a goal that has already led for calls for a nomination for FIFA's Puskas Award, presented to the best goal scored across the whole world in a 12 month period. When you see her strike, you can understand why. Watch it right here:

There aren't many footballers audacious enough to try and score on the volley from their own half, directly on the end of an opposition goal kick.

Billie is.

The Northern Ireland international's strike against Sion Swifts in a Danske Bank Women's Premiership encounter on Wednesday has taken social media by storm and yes, it was definitely intentional.

We can be sure of that because it's not the first time the Sandy Row star has tried it - much to manager Martin Douglas' frustration.

I just know that I can do it and if I connect with it, it could hit the net.

"Martin shouts at me all the time before kick-off saying 'no 40-yarders' but I just get ahead of myself when I'm on the pitch sometimes," laughed Billie, who works in Tesco when she's not making outrageous football headlines.

"He was absolutely speechless when that one went in.

"Whenever we're training, if anybody hits the ball up in the air, I'll always try to volley it. I just know that I can do it and if I connect with it, it could hit the net. If I don't, it could hit the corner flag. When you're going for a volley, it can come off your shin or your leg but if you connect properly, you know it's going to fly."

It's that technique that makes it so special. Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo would struggle to strike a ball that cleanly and on the full volley, it's well worthy of a spot at FIFA's top table.

"If it even got anywhere near that, it would be great," said Billie, who has netted an astounding 14 goals from centre-half this season. "That's obviously a really big award so I would be delighted but I'd be freaking out as well."

Northern Ireland is no stranger to FIFA's Puskas Award. You may remember Glentoran's Matty Burrows was nominated by the expert panel back in 2010 along with the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar. After that, Republic of Ireland's Stephanie Roche finished second behind James Rodriquez in 2014 with a goal for Peamount United.

Billie's strike is too late to be in contention for this year's award as July 15 was the cut-off date.

However, don't be surprised if that goal is back in the headlines next summer and nominated for the public vote on the FIFA website.

We asked FIFA how a goal can make its way onto the shortlist and it seems that fans are free to draw the panel's attention to any goals they wish. Coincidentally, you can contact FA via an online form right here or even Tweet @FIFAcom.

Billie knows this one has that X-Factor

"The manager of Sion Swifts text me yesterday to ask had I seen the video and mentioned that, if it's promoted properly, it could get nominated," said Cliftonville Ladies boss Douglas. "There are some goals that you see nominated and Billie's is head and shoulders above them.

"That will be something for the club to have a look at, not just for Billie but for the club itself and for women's football in the whole county.

"The video doesn't even do it justice. It's the cleanest strike you're going to see.

"It reminded me of baseball when the ball is pitch and then it comes back at double the pace. That's the way she hit it.

"What the video didn't show is that she took a quick free-kick from the half-way line shortly after and it came off the underside of the crossbar.

"Last season, she scored a free-kick from about 40 yards out in the cup semi-final and she also scored another volley from about 35-yards straight from a goal-kick. But she's trying it that much it got the stage we had to tell her to stop wasting possession."

There might have been more special strikes but Billie knows this one has that X-Factor, even if it didn't seem that way from the pitch.

"I didn't realise at the time," she said. "We had been 2-0 down so I don't think I even celebrated or anything. I was just thinking get the ball and let's go again.

"After the game , even the Sion fans were coming over and shaking my hands. Then everybody was going on about it and I thought 'I better watch this back'."

As expected, Billie says her phone hasn't stopped since the video hit social media on Thursday evening. But it's all just reward for a sterling career that normally goes largely unrecognised.

"She's got everything, she can strike a ball, play a pass, head, tackle, run forward with it," said Douglas. "I coach with Cliftonville Olympic, the men's reserve team, as well and Decky O'Hara is always asking could we not shave her head so she could play centre-half for him too. She really could - she's good enough.

"We struggled for numbers last season so she had played up front and in midfield but she's a centre-half and that's where she's been playing this season. It suits her bescause she can get the ball and drive forward or ping those long passes into the channels."

Billie's goal is another little lift for Northern Irish women's football, which Billie says has benefitted from hosting last year's UEFA U19 Women's Championships.

"It's definitely progressing, compared to what it was a few years ago," she said. "Now we have officials, the games are being recorded and it's hopefully getting more professional. Maybe in another 10 or 15 years, there will be money in the game and some players can get paid. That would be the next big thing for the sport."

Long before that, Billie and her Cliftonville team-mates must keep their focus on the current season. They're already Toals County Antrim Cup winners and have an Electric Ireland Women's Challenge Cup semi-final against Glentoran coming up while also trying to chase down league leaders Linfield.

A few more Simpson smashers would certainly help, and maybe the next of her outrageous efforts will get the coach's blessing.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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