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Weir: ACL recovery, Real Madrid dreams and inspiring girls

In an exclusive interview with Inside the WSL, Scotland midfielder Caroline Weir chats about her ACL recovery, her dreams of playing for Real Madrid, and inspiring girls.

The 28-year-old has been out of action since September when she damaged her ACL on international duty with Scotland during a 1-1 draw with Belgium.

It had followed on from an outstanding first season at Real Madrid, having scored 27 goals and assisted 15 across all competitions in 2022/23. However, she is unlikely to feature again for the remainder of this campaign.

Weir moved to Spain on a free transfer from Manchester City, having previously played for the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool in English football.

Sitting down with Inside the WSL, Weir gave an insight into rehab so far, life at Real Madrid plus much more…

On injuring her ACL and her recovery…

“At first, there was a bit of panic. I remember the injury and the tackle and the noise that had come from somewhere in my knee. Straight away, I was like ‘it’s my knee, my knee.’ I think every player actually does that. I’ve done that before when I’ve hurt my knee and it’s been nothing, but this one felt a little bit different.

“Then I kind of calmed down and I thought ‘it might be fine’ when I was given five minutes to go back on, but something wasn’t right.

“Hobbling off that pitch, I think deep down I knew it was pretty bad news. I’m quite an optimistic person, so I was quite hopeful that it might not be too serious, but I think because I heard the crack, I knew it was not good.

“It was definitely one of the toughest nights I’ve had, and the next few days. I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but it’s part of football and that was the start of this rehab process.

“We’re around four months post-op now and I was running on the pitch the other day for the first time, so that’s quite a big milestone.

“I’m doing fine really, just following the process. Unfortunately, it’s a really common injury and there is quite a clear process to follow that many players have gone through and you’ve seen them return. I’m trying to do it in the most positive way possible.

“The only way to describe rehab is a roller coaster. I know that sounds a bit like a cliché, but some days you think ‘I can totally do this, it’s fine’ then other days it can be a real struggle. You really have to push yourself through those days, not just mentally but physically.

On going home to Dunfermline….

“I get a little bit of nostalgia when I come home and I’m kicking about the places that I used to hang around.

“So coming home and being around my parents, hearing what’s going on in Dunfermline with girls football and Dunfermline Athletic, that makes me think because when I’m in Madrid, I’m just in that bubble of playing or going through rehab.”

“I don’t think I knew exactly what I was in for until you’re living every day, but it’s also kind of a cool journey because you see the progress you make and your whole perspective on things changes. I’m trying to embrace the process, the good and the bad, but that can be hard.

“I’ve turned to quite a few friends and other players that have been through the process and they’ve been so helpful. So many players reached out and offered advice.

“I’m following everyone coming back from this injury or have been through it. Things like Andy Murray’s documentary – I’ve watched that before so many times – but I watched it again just before I went into the operation.

“He’s had a tough time with injuries, but he’s always come back so things like that do actually help.”

On missing out on Scotland duty…

Image: Weir has 102 caps for Scotland, scoring 17 goals

“I think that’s probably one of the hardest things to deal with when you’re injured – watching your team and not being able to influence it at all.

“It’s obviously been a tough campaign, but the team is trying to do the right things and we’re trying to work on everything that Pedro [Martinez Losa] is trying to implement.

“I do think there has been progress over the last 12 months for sure. We were in a tough group for the last campaign but it’s a new year and a new campaign and I think we are heading in the right direction.

“We have the ability to go and get some good results in the next qualifying campaign and see where that takes us. It’s hard watching your team and not being in camp, being quite far away from it but that’s just something that comes with injuries.”

On her dream of playing for Real Madrid…

Caroline Weir, center, of Spain's Real Madrid fights for the ball against Noemi Granados, left, and Eva Gonzalez, right, of Mexico's America during a women's friendly soccer match at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Ruiz Ruiz)
Image: Weir had a superb 2022/23 season with Real Madrid

“Real Madrid was my team growing up. I had the kit and Zidane was my favourite player, but it just seemed so far away.

“Like, how on earth do you get to Madrid from a small town in Scotland, and also being a girl? I just thought ‘where are the steps that take you there?’

“I’ve lived that now and gone from the UK to Spain, and it just shows that if you really want something, you’re a little bit lucky and you work hard, anything can happen.

“It’s been a crazy journey, but one that I’ve really enjoyed.”

On having young girls looking up to her…

“I think anything is possible if you really want it and if you work hard. I had a dream from a really young age to be a professional footballer, and that was quite strange because that wasn’t even a thing back then.

“I’ve been really lucky in that as I’ve come through, the game has gone from strength to strength and the opportunity to be professional has been there.

“I feel fortunate but for girls now, there are so many opportunities. Not just to become a professional footballer, but to be a coach, to be an analyst and to work in football and I think that’s the coolest thing.”

On the growth of the WSL and SWPL…

Image: The midfielder has previously played for the likes of Man City and Arsenal in England

“The WSL is something that I like to keep watching. I was at Man City for many years so I keep up with a lot of their games. They’re having a good season.

“The WSL seems to grow every season – I enjoy watching it more not being in it. It’s more competitive, more professional, more fans and bigger stadiums. It’s great to see.

“The SWPL is going in the right direction. A lot of the players play for Scotland and I hear what’s going on in that league a lot when I’m at camp.

“Watching from a distance, it’s definitely more competitive. There are more teams investing and doing the right things, maybe at a slightly slower rate, but that’s probably expected. I just hope it can be sustainable and hopefully can continue to grow and do all the right things.

“To really grow the game in Scotland is just as important, not just on a domestic level, but also international. We need to get the top players coming through for the national team and we are starting to see that a little bit more.”

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