West Ham United Ladies yesterday announced their sixth signing of the summer ahead of their first-ever campaign in the Women’s Super League, capturing their third player from Chelsea in the space of just a couple of weeks in the form of defender Gilly Flaherty.
But, what do we know about the England international, how many clubs has she played for during her relatively short and illustrious career, what qualities have led her to lift 21 trophies, and how many times has she represented her country? Well, today, we attempt to answer those questions by profiling the 26-year-old centre-back.
Gilly Louise Scarlett Flaherty was born in South East London in the London Borough of Southwark in August 1991 and grew up dreaming of becoming a professional footballer, in an era when women’s football was far from as popular as it is in this day and age.
As a youngster, she, ironically, joined the Hammers’ rivals the Millwall Lionesses, playing in their Academy up until the age of 13, when she was scouted by one of the biggest women’s football clubs in the world, Arsenal.
Flaherty joined up with the Gunners in 2003 and quickly set about progressing through the ranks and up into the senior set-up, remarkably, doing so in just three years.
Incredibly, she was just 15 when she made her Arsenal debut in the Women’s League Cup against Birmingham City and just a few months after, she had five trophies under her belt to add to the FA Women’s Community Shield she had already collected.
Those five trophies as part of a flabbergasting Arsenal season, the 2006/2007 Women’s UEFA Cup, or Women’s Champions League as it is now known, the FA Women’s National Premier League, the FA’s Women’s Premier League Cup, the London County FA Women’s Cup and the FA Women’s Cup, were the first several of 22 to come for Flaherty.
While still in North London, she would add four further FA Cups in in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013, the first two Women’s Super Leagues in 2011 and 2012, the National Premier League a further three years in succession 2008, 2009 and 2010, and one more London County FA Women’s Cup and FA Women’s Community Shield.
Making the move west to Stamford Bridge in the winter of 2014, from arguably the most successful women’s team to one that are very much still emerging, where she would become vice-skipper, didn’t stop her from winning trophies.
In a four-year spell, ending with the relocation to East London, she managed to help the team to four major honours, two FA Women’s Cups and two WSLs both in 2015 and 2018 and the 2017 FA Women’s Spring series, amassing to the extraordinary 22-trophy haul.
Flaherty’s early-career success with Arsenal didn’t just start her on a sparkling trophy trail, but it also got her recognised on the International stage when the England selectors started taking note of her performances and achievements.
Starting from U15 level with playing in red, she has turned out for the Three Lions at every single level, playing a fair amount of times in each and steadily rising up to the seniors in 2015.
Five years after first playing for the U23s in 2010, then manager Mark Samson gave the centre-half her Three Lions debut although she did miss out on a place in the squad for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
In total, she has made nine appearances for the national team, her last one coming in 2017 and she was most recently called up to Phil Neville’s squad in January 2018, for a training camp.
West Ham, recently accepted into the 2018/2019 Women’s Super League, the first time they will compete at the highest level of women’s football in England, will become her third professional club.
And if she enjoys a spell at Rush Green, the ladies’ home stadium and also the training base of the Hammers’ men’s first-team, half as successful as she did with either the Gunners or the Blues, she will be a revelation in East London.
The Cockney, during her seven-year spell in North London, made 76 appearances, not far short of a century of showings, netting four goals along the way.
A year of her time playing in their famous Gunners red was documented by British television’s Channel 4 as part of their Yeardot programme, which followed a group of teenagers day to day, documenting their attempt to achieve their professional aims and boy did Flaherty.
In just four years at Chelsea, where she was an undeniable first-team regular she made a similar amount of appearances, scoring double the amount of strikes.
Every time that she does manage to net, mostly from corners, using her physical and aerial advantage, she celebrates in trademark style, pointing to the sky in memory of her close friend Tommy Blackmore.
Away from football, Flaherty is a lover of other sports, more specifically boxing, having fought in a white collar event in 2013 and raised over £1000 for the Millwall Lionesses Academy.
She switches to Claret & Blue from blue on a professional deal, as part of a wave of new signings following the appointment of Matt Beard as the new manager, under General Manager Karen Ray, she spoke to the club’s official website WHUFC.com after signing her contract.
“I’m really excited to be joining West Ham, I can’t wait to get going.
“It’s a new team, a new start and a new challenge. There’s a bit of the unknown but it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to it. Bring it on!
“Every club that I’ve been at have been winners. At Arsenal, we won trophies and then at Chelsea we won two league titles, two FA Cups and the Spring Series.
“I’m not short of trophies and I’m not short of winning. I know that winning mentality. I have it and it’s been bred in me since I was little. I think that’s why Karen and Matt wanted to bring me here.
“I’m not going to be someone that settles. I want to help this team push on and I really believe we can go on and compete. There’s long-term visions at this club; that’s exciting, and that’s what is attractive about joining West Ham.”
Flaherty, the 26-year-old, will join up with her new Irons teammates, including friends and fellow new signings Becky Spencer and Claire Rafferty, in the coming weeks as they prepare for a historic season, which kicks off with the WSL opener in August.
There can be little doubting that, in Gilly Flaherty, West Ham are getting not only the kind of experience that will help them through their maiden campaign in the top tier of women’s football in England, but the quality and winning mentality to aid them in pushing on to that next level and all parties will be very excited about the signing.