Stanground Academy PE teacher Jodie Bartle is Peterborough's first full-time female footballer
Former Telegraph award winner signs professional contract with Celtic FC Women
Jodie Bartle hadn’t even kicked a football until she was 15. Twelve years on, she has just signed a professional contract with Celtic FC Women, becoming Peterborough’s first full-time female footballer.
And while this may sound like the stuff of fairytales, this one is very much of Jodie’s own making, through years of hard work and dedication.
League rules meant she was 17 before she played her first competitive game, developing her skills with first Yaxley women, then Peterborough Northern Star – which she captained to promotion and didn’t miss a game in five years – and Loughborough Foxes, before moving to Championship side Coventry United last summer.
And in late January, having been spotted by new Celtic boss Fran Alonso during his time managing Lewes, Jodie received a dream call, one that changed her life.
It has meant a swift change of career from PE teacher at Stanground Academy and a move to Glasgow. But it was an opportunity far too good to miss for the 27-year-old defender, who was the first woman to be awarded the Peterborough Telegraph’s footballer of the year accolade in 2015.
Jodie’s Celtic move has all happened incredibly quickly.
“I got the call on the Monday from Coventry’s manager, and then a call from Celtic on Tuesday, and on Wednesday they sent the contract through. I had to have a meeting with my head teacher – who was fantastic – and then my last day at work was Friday!” said Jodie.
“A lot of people have asked me if it was a difficult decision, having to uproot and move to Scotland but, honestly, I didn’t give it a second thought.
“The chance of being a professional footballer doesn’t come around often and I really couldn’t say no.
“What has made it easier is the support I have received from the people around me, from my friends, my family, my boyfriend and now my new teammates.
“I can’t wait to get out on the pitch to put into practice everything I’m learning from Fran and the Celtic coaching team.
“Our first league game is against Glasgow City, who have won the league for 14 consecutive seasons so I am excited to see how we fare against them.
“We have a couple of cup games prior to this which will give the new team time to bed in ahead of our league debut.
“The amount of good wishes from the fans has taken me aback and I even get stopped in the street for fan photos!”
But the reward of a high-profile footballing career is nothing more than Jodie deserves.
Having joined Loughborough Foxes in 2016, a team with a real opportunity to progress to the third tier, she was driving 500 miles a week.
She was also spending two evenings a week developing her game playing five-a-side and seven-a-side with a men’s team, benefiting from the faster pace and physical nature.
Jodie won both Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the Year with the Foxes, who gained promotion to the third tier in 2018.
And the awards have kept on coming. Playing centre-back at Coventry United, Jodie was player of the month for both September and October.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction from everyone at home,” she added. “I still have some very close friends at Peterborough Northern Star and went to watch them on my last day in Peterborough. It was quite emotional and they gave me a wonderful send off.
“Some of my students didn’t actually believe me when I told them!
“I was quite taken aback by how sad some were, but on the whole they were very excited for me.
“I have every intention of visiting Stanground college when I’m back in Peterborough and sharing some of my exploits.”
And while Jodie may be Peterborough’s first female professional, with teams now moving in the right direction and many talented players, she believes she won’t be the last.
“I started playing football at 17, so it’s never too late to chase your dreams as long as you have the right attitude and work ethic” she said.
“My advice would be – if you want something, you have to be prepared to work for it.
“Within one calendar year I broke my leg and slipped a disc leading to a back operation.
“Either of these could have ended my football, but with determination I didn’t let it defeat me.
“I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, trained on the cold, frozen nights when I really didn’t want to and I did all of this whilst holding a full-time job.
“There will be times where you think: is this really worth it? I am here to say it is!”