It’s all that she knows really, pulling on the famous Garibaldi, and for one of Nottingham’s own, she’s been doing so for pretty much half her life as well.
Alongside captain Lyndsey Harkin, and defender Laura Jayne O’Neill, winger Annabel McKechnie is one of the ‘old guard’ with Nottingham Forest Women and at 31-years-old, it now seems like a lifetime ago since walking through the doors as a teenager coming into the club aged fifteen.
Now, having recently bagged her fortieth goal for Forest (in the 2-2 draw with Hull City), McKechnie knows both what she needs to do, and what her teammates have to do, when women’s football returns, again, on 13 December (away to Burnley).
“I’m not sure how I’m as high as I am in the scoring charts,” began Annabel, now fourth in the all-time scoring tables for Forest.
“It’s not something I’m renowned for, scoring goals, so I know that, when the opportunities come my way, I need to score more and get my goals ratio up.”
“That will come with more game-time to which I know I’ve to be patient about and wait for my chances, but overall, I can’t wait to get back out training, and playing again, we all can’t.”
“We also know that we have a few things to put right on the football pitch,” Forest Women have failed to win any of their last three matches, “and to stop giving away silly points.”
Since Annabel joined Forest Women, back when she was fifteen, the two spells in which she’s had away from the club were due to a torn ACL, and the transition into motherhood, the latter of which saw her take over two years out of the game, a sport which she’d begun long before joining the Reds.
In the late nineties, at the tender age of seven-years-old, Annabel turned out for Vernon Boys, where she would play between 7-and-11-years.
Loyalty though has been something that the current Forest number seven is renowned, and showed when she played in her younger days, resisting calls from Forest, via Lauren Cresswell and her father, to go and don the famous Reds jersey; once she did however, she’s never looked back.
It has also been a somewhat trophy-laden journey under the Garibaldi as well, the club often winners of the Nottinghamshire FA Women’s County Cup as well as, in 2008, a Northern Premier League title success.
“That was a dream that season,” beamed Annabel.
“It quite literally went down to the last game of the season and we needed to win both go the season unbeaten, and win the league. Whilst the side we were neck-and-neck with, needed similar.”
“Unbelievably, we did what we had to and they didn’t, it was amazing.”
Fast-forward to Annabel giving birth to her son in 2017, she would go through a spell of being unsure as to whether to return to the fold, with her lifelong friendship with Harkin however, holding firm and true.
Some twenty-eight months, give-or-take, was how long Annabel would take away, between March 2017 and July 2019, returning, eventually, to play for Forest Reserves.
“I was enjoying motherhood and unsure about whether I’d come back,” explained Annabel.
“Those long bus journey’s, that time away from the family, and then, just three months after I’d given birth, I was contacted by the club asking if I was ready to return.”
When she finally took the plunge, after some persuasion from Harkin, who was persistent in sending links to trials, did Annabel finally make those first, tentative steps back, and she didn’t know anyone else there.
“There was no harm in my trying, and I just wanted to see if I could still do it,” continued the Forest number seven, “Andy (Cook) could see that I still had something to offer, but we both knew that I needed to play for the Reserves, and work my way back into the first team.”
Now, having had previous time away, you’d think she’d be a dab hand when it came to the dilemmas of 2020 and the global pandemic brought, what with working from home and looking after her son, but adding in the sporting scenarios is something else entirely.
“We’ve managed to keep ourselves occupied, more so as we’re also a close knit group here and Marcus (Ward, Physical Performance Coach), he’s put together some great zoom sessions, strength programmes.”
“Now, we’re just glad to be back again, and, other than more game-time and scoring more myself, I guess that, having seen the reaction Lyndsey’s boys have with her, I’d love for my son to be see me playing and have that sense of pride and satisfaction with it.”
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @Josh Dixon McKechnie is fourth on the Reds all time goalscorers list.