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'If we can make people smile, then we will' - Everton's Magill keeping positive during coronavirus pandemic

15:00 GMT+3 13/04/2020
Simone Magill Everton Women 2019
With football in England suspended indefinitely, the Northern Ireland international has been balancing community work with her studies

Everton’s Simone Magill should’ve been in Northern Ireland last week, adding to the 55 caps she has already won for her country.

The trip home might’ve even given her chance to meet a new family member, with her brother’s wife expecting a child at the same time, before the 25-year-old jetted off to Belarus.

There, her country’s bid for Euro 2021 qualification, bolstered by two hard-fought draws with Wales at the end of last year, would continue.

But, like most people, Magill’s life has been brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic.

With football on the backburner, the forward has been spending her time focusing on her PhD, checking up on her family across the water and also giving something back to the community in what is an extremely difficult time for many.

“Obviously, we’re used to being busy every single day playing football and that’s all stopped now,” Magill tells Goal.

“For the people in the community, watching football and going to football, even if they play as well, that’s stopped for them too.

“If by us [players] picking up the phone and phoning various people in the community, checking in, can make them smile in this difficult time, then we’re going to do it, aren’t we?”

Whether it’s phoning members of the Everton disability women’s team, or reading stories to children on a live video feed, Magill has been doing her bit to help out and try and keep some spirits up.

“This time has maybe shown the things that we did take for granted,” she says.

“We’re in this situation now and it does make you realise how blessed we are to have various people around us, to be a part of the team and be a part of a club that really cares about the people involved.

“It has really brought through and shown us exactly how grateful we should be.”

For Magill, being away from her family is something she is used to.

The forward moved to England as an 18-year-old, joining Everton after a successful trial, and would quickly endear herself to the fans, voted their Player of the Year within two years. She's been there ever since, winning the club's Player of the Season award in May.

Settled into a house with her fiance and dog, it all means Magill has grown used to not seeing her family regularly, but the current situation does make things a little tougher.

“It is weird, not that I really go over too often. I would only really get the opportunity to go across when we have an international camp or whatever," she explains.

“But now that’s kind of stopped and there’s the uncertainty around it, not knowing when I’ll get that opportunity [to go home] again, it’s really weird.

“It’s just the unknown really. To try and combat that is difficult because you’ve no idea when we’re going to be out of this situation.

“For now, it’s the best thing to do, you’ve just kind of got to sit tight and just take it day by day really.

“I’m on FaceTime quite regularly, just trying to keep up.

“My brother and his wife are expecting a child which makes it even harder, because during this time I would obviously be trying to get home to meet the new-born.

“Obviously, it’s quite difficult, but hopefully everything is well with the baby, everyone is healthy. When I can, I’ll get across and hopefully get to meet the little one.”

Magill’s focus for now is to keep herself fit and well, ready for whenever normality resumes and football follows.

“We’ve obviously all been given our individual programmes to be cracking on with and we report back every day with what we’re doing and how things have been going,” she says.

“The club have been really good. We’re doing other things as well just to get us socially interactive.

“We’re doing quizzes every week and little things like that to kind of keep us all chatting and interacting with each other.

“It’s been making the best out of the situation that we’re in really. As far as that’s gone, I think they’re doing really, really well.”

With a psychologist on hand and regular check-ins from the club on how everyone is doing, Everton have a support mechanism in place to support any of the players if they should need it.

“It’s quite refreshing to know that if you do need to speak to anybody, all we have to do is pick up the phone and somebody is always there,” Magill adds.

The forward herself has her own form of therapy at home though, on hand to help her through this time.

“As frustrating as [this time] is for humans, it’s amazing for the dog.”