Meet Abi Harrison, Clear Head ambassador

Bristol City’s Abi Harrison, as interviewed by the Ashton Girls U16s Football Team

Rewind to summer 2023, we launched a city-wide campaign to celebrate Clear Head 0.5% IPA. It was unanimously and unofficially named the clear choice for Bristol, no matter the occasion. It’s a beer that plays beautifully with sport; one of our favourite opportunities to enjoy Bristol’s favourite alcohol-free beer is pre-game at the Independence Sports bar at Ashton Gate stadium.

Bristol City’s Abi Harrison was featured in our campaign then, and now that BS3 is her home-from-home, she’s a fully fledged Clear Head ambassador. Partnering with our Brewed to Give scheme, we’ve been able to support local U16s team Ashton Girls in the form of both stock for fundraisers and by linking the team up with Abi to offer some wise words of wisdom.

Meeting at one of the team’s training sessions, Abi and the U16s team (plus parents and coaches, with cans of Clear Head in hand) met to answer all the team’s burning questions. It was an inspiring chat with a humble and inspiring player and honourary member of the South Bristol community. We’re proud to call Abi a friend of Bristol Beer Factory.

Grab a Clear Head and dive into some highlights of their conversation below. We hope you feel as motivated as Team BBF were afterwards to work on our strengths, both in and out the gym!

How many training sessions do you do a week?

It’s easier to give you my weekly schedule! We’ll play a game on a Sunday, Monday we’ll come in and be on pitch again, if you’ve not played as much, and then we’ll be in gym. Mainly upper body, as obviously you’ll be tired! Tuesday we have a day off. Wednesday we’ll come back in, we’ll be in the gym before training, mostly doing injury prevention stuff. Obviously got a few injuries here! (Editor’s note: two of the Ashton Girls team members are on crutches. Not from football, it should be noted, but fencing.)

Not all injuries are preventable, I’m injured just now. But yeah, [we’re] trying to minimise that. And then we’ll go on pitch, and it’ll be our hard day on Wednesday. We’ll play 11-a-side, play maybe an hour and a half. Then back to the gym. Thursday it’s the same old; gym, pitch, gym… Friday we’re a day off. And then we actually train on a Saturday, so we’ll train the day before our game [on Sunday]. Very light; we’ll do set pieces and tactical pieces.

We get two days off, if we’re not off on a day off, we’re on a pitch running about! I’m lucky to do it, I won’t be able to do that for ages! I’ll enjoy it where I can.


Do you get on with your teammates?

We’re a really close team. A lot of us live away from home, we moved to Bristol, so without sounding sad we only have each other. I even choose to spend my days off with the people I spend all week with. We’re all friends and we all love football. If I’m not in the training ground I spend three hours watching football of an evening, which my mum says is sad!


What do you eat before a game?

(Editors note: we spoke to Abi before the Q&A and she predicted this would be asked! It is hands down the question everyone always wants to know, apparently. You’re welcome.)

I’m actually a bit superstitious. If we’re kicking off at 12, I’ll only eat once: beans on toast, or poached eggs. If we’re kicking off at 2, I’ll eat twice. I don’t like feeling too full. I’ll just have Weetabix, and I’ll have pasta the night before. Some people are the complete opposite!


What was it like being signed?

I was signed here, it’s a bit different to being called up to Scotland or your national team. It was my dream job since I was 8 or 9 years old to be a professional footballer. At the time, did it look possible? Probably not. So now that I sit here, I still have to pinch myself and remind myself that even when I’m complaining about small silly things that I’m very lucky to do it. It’s just another game of football and I’m quite consistent and level-headed, whether we’re playing against Arsenal or playing in the FA Cup or playing for Scotland in a World Cup playoff. It’s just another game of football. It can be your last game, so go out and enjoy it.

How was it playing for Scotland?

When I got my debut, it was a bit of a whirlwind, I think I was only on the pitch about 8 minutes! But I got on the pitch with a strip. It was a proud moment.

You just want to achieve it, as soon as you can, and I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to step back and appreciate the magnitude of it. Without sounding arrogant, it was what everyone expected me to do. Sometimes that pressure is hard, and you don’t realise it at the time. I always say, everyone told me to go and play for Scotland, and then I did it, and once you’ve been in the squad once, it’s “oh now you need to be a substitute on the pitch,” “now you’re a sub you need to be a starter,” “now you’re a starter go and be our golden girl”. There’s always [that feeling] in this industry, and with the mindset of athletes. You can’t really rest on it no matter how big the achievement might seem to be.

Having said that, my proudest moment, I scored in extra time in a European playoff against Austria. So that was good. I scored a header, it’s very rare. That was proud but then we went out the next game and we got put out by Ireland, so it sort of doesn’t feel great now. But when I hang my boots up for football I’ll look back and the stuff I’ve done is way more than young Abi could’ve ever imagined or dreamed of.


Who are your idols in football?

I played against some good players. Everyone we come against in the league are very good players. My idol? I’ve two, I’ve got a man and a woman. The man, Henrik Larson, Celtic player, played for Man U, played for Barcelona, I wore number 7 for Celtic and he wore number 7 for Celtic, and now I’m 7 at Bristol. Maybe it’s because of that but yeah, a striker that’s scored goals, very good goals against Rangers, that’s all you want if you’re a Celtic player or fan!

My idol for a woman is called Julie Fleeton, again she’s Scottish, she has won the Champions league, she has played for Arsenal, a very very good player. When I was about 9 or 10 I wrote a ‘my hero’ project about her in school and my Dad distantly knew her and managed to get a phone call with her. A few years down the line I turned up to Celtic training and she was stood next to me, and she was like, “oh my God, do you remember doing a project on me?” so that was a bit of an embarrassing moment! But yeah, I got to share the pitch with my hero, so that was nice.


Any advice for yourself at a younger age?

I think one of the hardest things I had to deal with was not everyone liked me. I’m a bit of a big character, I joke around, and some people just didn’t like that. Some coaches and some teammates just didn’t like it. But ultimately I found the ones that did and I’ve gone on strength to strength. I’m in a happy place surrounded by managers that appreciate me or at least say they do! Just don’t get too bogged down. You’re not gonna be everyone’s cup of tea. But you’d rather have a smaller circle of people that like you for you than a massive circle of people who you have to pretend to be someone you’re not for. And just enjoy it. It goes fast!

How important is it to communicate on the pitch?

See, if you could come down and ask my team the same question! The easiest thing for me to say is it makes it a whole lot easier. We have the same conversations at Bristol, you aren’t on your own. Even if you’re talking nonsense, at least you’re all on the same nonsense page. That’s what I try to say to the younger players. I think as well, if you’re quiet off the pitch, and you yell your head off on the pitch, nobody is going to go “oh, she was loud today”. Nobody is going to judge you. If you can pretend to be that person, nobody is going to think twice.

Be on the same page and that’s not always the right page but be on the same wrong page together and you’ll be fine. Maybe that’s not what coaches would say, maybe coach will disagree with me!


Do you need natural ability to get far in football?

I think the old saying of ‘hard work beats talent if talent doesn't work hard’ is true. Do you need ability and love for the game? Of course you do. But you’re never the complete package, so keep working.


Do you prefer playing with Scotland or Bristol?

When I play with Scotland, I play with girls I’ve known and grown up with since I was 6 or 7. And we’re all Scottish and we all talk the same. That takes away the language barrier. But every game for Scotland is sort of a big competitive game. Pressure’s on, we’re playing in big stadiums. I think sometimes that is the case you forget the enjoyment of the game. The pressure is on every single week. That’s not to say it’s not at Bristol, but it’s different expectations and my role as a teammate is different between Scotland and Bristol just in terms of what is expected of me and standards that are set. At Scotland I’m playing with World Class players. They’re both different, both very enjoyable, I get frustrated at both. But that’s not because I’m not appreciative, just I care too much. I’m the world’s worst loser!


What is the difference between training with Scotland and Bristol?

It’s completely different. To put it into context, our Scottish manager is Spanish. It’s all about getting on the ball, we’re doing stuff in the gym that looks like ninja warrior, nobody has a clue how it correlates but Spain are very good so we’ll listen to it! It’s different and sometimes it’s hard to switch off but I think both teams are consistent in terms of the people that are there and the staff that are there. You know when I’m in a Bristol kit I’ve got my Bristol hat on and when I’m in a Scotland kit I’ve got my Scotland hat on. I love both, they’re very different, demands are different, but I love them nonetheless.


How did you get your break?

I grew up in Scotland, hence the accent, and you couldn’t be professional in Scotland when I was growing up, even ‘til I left at 21, so when professional football became maybe a bit more accessible, I knew that I would have to get up and leave. My coach (that I was actually in a team with before) got the assistant coach job at Bristol City. In football as in life, it’s about who you know, and he put a good word in. By the time word got in and my season finished he had actually moved on to another team, but I still moved here. Five years down the line, I’m still here.


I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I would have or could have. So now I sort of enjoy football, and the lifestyle, and know my place is to inspire the next generation to play football… If my career ended tomorrow, touch wood that it doesn’t, after the disappointment I’d be happy with everything I’ve done. Noone can take that away. So now I run about with a smile on my face!


Any advice for scoring with your bad foot?

Just use it. You miss on your good foot as well as your bad foot. If you don’t shoot with it, you’ll never score with it. And I still miss on my bad foot.

How do you get through during tough times?

It’s hard, this year’s been tough for me. I’ve had injury after injury. I tore my hamstring the week before this season started, I had a back injury at the start of sort of 2024, I then got back in training, played one game, trained the next day, tore the ligament in my ankle. This year has been ‘why can I not catch a break!’ – if I’ve ever been tested, it’s now. Firstly, it’s easier for me, I have to go to work every day, I have to get better, it’s what I’m paid to do, but you know, at the end of the day, it gives you enjoyment, that’s what you work for. On the cold wet nights, winning losing drawing, you’re with your pals. Even if yous are having a bad time, yous are able to run right now, these girls can’t. These girls are able to walk on crutches, some can’t. Somebody’s always got it worse, someone’s always got it better, you’re the only one who can get yourself up.


How to become a better player?

You need to know your own strengths and own weaknesses before you go and ask anything of anyone else. I can’t work on speed; I can’t get much faster. That’s not why I play football, I don’t outrun anybody on a pitch, defender or not, but that’s my weakness, I know that. Work on your strengths, make your strengths better, and then you’ll become untouchable. Look at yourself first. See what you think you’re good at, what your parents think you’re good at, your coaches and your teammates because you’ll probably get 4 different answers. And that’s not just on the pitch. Look at yourself, are you as fit as you can be, are you eating right, are you sleeping right? It all catches up on you. Work out what’s in here and why you’re doing it. If you’re doing it to come and have a laugh with your friends that’s fine. You need to all be on the same page. Some of you want to take it more seriously and you can’t hold your teammates back. Have a look at yourself, strengths and weaknesses and everything in between, and work on your strengths.

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