Three decades after Ronnie Whelan wore the armband as captain of Liverpool, Niamh Fahey has the honour of being the next Irish native holding that position

Galway girl steering the Red ship

New skipper Fahey hoping to lead her Anfield club back into the top flight


As a kid growing up in Galway, it was the poster of Michael Owen on the wall that marked out her territory as a Liverpool fan.

Now, at the age of 32, wide-eyed teenage admiration is gone and a Zoom call with Jurgen Klopp and club icon Steven Gerrard is work, not idle pleasure for Niamh Fahey.

Three decades after Ronnie Whelan wore the armband as captain of Liverpool FC, Fahey has the honour of being the next Irish native holding that position, with the Reds' Women's team.

"I had a spring in my step that first week after it was announced, I was walking on cloud nine for those first few days," Fahey says.

She even corrects me when I say that she "was" a Liverpool fan.

"I still am," she stresses, pointing out that a lifelong attachment to the club makes that armband even more important.


"If you are passionate about something I think you invest more of yourself in it. As a fan of the club I have that bit of extra passion, more emotional investment.

"I always did the best in any jersey I wore but I feel I give even more with that red shirt on my back, being a fan and then getting to play."
Three decades after Ronnie Whelan wore the armband as captain of Liverpool, Niamh Fahey has the honour of being the next Irish native holding that position


Captaincy brings added duties.

Roy Keane once said how he saw a clear division, and distraction, between being club captain (organising nights out, sending flowers to players' wives after they gave birth, dealing with the board) and being team captain (scrapping with the likes of Patrick Viera on the field).

"I can see Roy's argument but I like doing both, being aware of what's happening off the pitch, having an influence off the pitch as well as on it," Fahey says.

"There is a lot more media to do as captain and we do more charity work now, getting involved in promoting charities, mental health awareness.

"It could be going in to talk about structures, the board, where the club are going, and to give feedback on that.

"Me and the vice captain, we are only in on the occasional meeting but we are still more involved and then it's dealing with stuff off the pitch, any problems the girls might have."

Recent meetings included that Zoom call with the manager of the men's side.

"Yeah, Jurgen Klopp was on one call with us, we had Steven Gerrard on Zoom another time so there are good links there and there are people in the club who want to share their experiences with the women's team.

"It was great to learn from their experience, put questions to them. We spoke to Klopp before the league was won, we all wanted to know when it would be won," she laughs.

"I have met a few Premier League managers who were always knowledgeable about the women's game, and Jurgen was very receptive towards us.

"He has good links with our manager and he comes from Germany, where the women's game is more high-profile and there's more equality."

But there is a clear inequality between the status of the two teams: Klopp's side are champions of England, while Vicky Jepson's Women's team aren't even in the top flight, relegated from the Women's Super League last season.

It's led to accusations that Liverpool, as a club, have undervalued and underfunded the women's game.

Fahey is in her third season as a Red and admits it has been an issue.
Fahey in action for Galway during the 2005 All-Ireland Ladies Football final. Photo: Sportsfile


"It's frustrating having to answer that question all the time but it's no secret that the women's team was neglected in the past," she says.

"But being captain now, I know exactly what's going on in the club, we are funded and resourced properly now and it can only get better.

"Sometimes things have to fall before you can scrap everything and start anew.

"We're at the beginning now and hopefully we won't have to get any more comparisons between one team winning the league and the other being relegated.

"We can't dress it up any other way, that just wasn't there but they have recognised it and they know, there are good people in high places at the club who want to change that.


"They know things weren't done right in the past so plans are to change that, it should have been done before but it's being done now," she added, admitting that promotion back to the WSL is essential.

Relegation, and the manner of how the Reds went down in a season halted by COVID in March, with eight games still to play, still hurts.

"Having that decision made for you, having it taken out of your hands and not being given a chance to fight, that was hard but we have to park it," Fahey insists.

"We have spent enough time being angry and frustrated at that decision to let that carry into this season, we can't look back - as heart-breaking and annoying as it was to be relegated.

"It was the first relegation in my career, hopefully the last," added Fahey, heading into a big week as the Irish senior side travel to Germany today to prepare for Saturday's Euro qualifier against the Germans.