‘As an American, to be able to put on a United shirt is really special’
Tobin Heath idolised the English game when growing up, now she is settling in by building a Lego model of Old Trafford
Tobin Heath grew up watching the Premier League and is already feeling the weight of history that comes with the Manchester United shirt she will wear in the Women’s Super League, but the United States international continues to believe in the ingrained superiority of her national team.
Heath is one of several high-profile US internationals to have signed for WSL teams this season as there was little chance to play club football back home, ahead of next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, because of the coronavirus situation.
United have signed Heath and Christen Press, Manchester City have brought in Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis, while Alex Morgan has signed for Tottenham Hotspur. All five were members of the US squad that beat England on the way to winning the World Cup last year.
Although the presence of so many of their best players in England is a coup for the WSL, Heath continues to believe the US remain the best international side.
“I’m not worried at all,” said Heath, 32, who has won both the Olympics and World Cup twice and is widely regarded as one of her country’s all-time best with 168 international appearances. “I think our league [NWSL] in the US is [still the best]. But in terms of the growth of the global game, I think the competition of international football is only going to go up and [the US] is only going to continue to be challenged. And that’s what you want, especially in terms of the US team – it’s grow, or die, and that’s how it should be. But with competition comes more resources, more talent. I only expect it to be harder and harder.
“In terms of the growth of this league over here, it’s only going to help their national team. If they can bring over top players and they’re competing against and with top players, and they’re also developing their pool, it’s going to be massive for them. That’s why you invest in leagues and in your national game. The competition all over the world is getting scary. In terms of the US, I know for a fact that the US will always be at the forefront of that. Because of their investment in their women’s game, both domestically and internationally.”
Heath, who has bought a Lego model of Old Trafford to build while she adjusts to life in the UK, used to watch tapes of English football as a child and has fulfilled a childhood dream in playing for United – even if she is an Arsenal fan.
“I definitely thought it [playing in England] would happen. It was in my mind,” she said. The [United] badge is huge. It’s huge in the US for a football player. It’s all I kind of knew in terms of football and how I was really introduced to the game was the EPL [Premier League]. So yes, I would say that when I put on my first Man United training kit, it felt enormous in a way that was really special in kind of like a childhood dream type way. We don’t have that history in the US. So, to be able to put on a shirt like that as an American was really special.
“All of my football, even my introduction, even my coaches, most of them came from Europe, particularly England. So pretty much my whole footballing education and introduction was through English football. And when TV rights started becoming more prominent in the US, it was obviously something as a football fan that was just a dream to be able to watch.
Heath chose United because they represent both the tradition of the game in England, but also its bright future. “It’s a young ambitious programme,” Heath added. “They’re only a few years old, I was really drawn in by the manager Casey Stoney and her reputation and what I had heard about her. Then, becoming more familiar with the team, that was something I felt like I could really come here and build upon and help out and learn and grow.
“When Manchester United came [formed a women’s team] into the league I remember saying, ‘Wow, this is huge’. It’s so important for clubs with all this tradition, history, power influence, it’s huge for them to have a women’s team. It’s so encouraging for the global game at large.”
Big name: Tobin Heath has played 168 times for the United States