For some it’s the glamour and the fame, for others it’s the trophies and success, and for a fortunate few it’s the lucrative financial rewards.

There are many reasons that drive professional sportspeople to reach the level they do, and to then stay there for as long as they can.

However, ask Watford Women midfielder Coral Haines what motivates her and the answer comes back at you fast and clear: “I just want to play good football.”

The 27-year-old joined the Hornets in the summer from Crystal Palace, continuing a career that has seen her play Super League and Champions League football as well as being capped by England at Under-19 and Under-23 level.

She signed her first professional contract when she was 16 and still at school, and moved away from the family home to develop her career in the game.

Yet you only have to spend a few minutes in her company to realise that it’s not any of the trappings of football that drive her on – it’s the game itself.

“I’m not a person who cares about the politics of the game or what goes on away from the pitch,” she admitted.

“I just love playing football, and I enjoy it so much that none of the other stuff really matters to me.

“I am someone who wants to play the game.

“It’s all about enjoying your football. In the women’s game you’re not going to reap the financial benefits, so it has to be about playing football in a good style and being able to enjoy what you do.

“I know I’m not guaranteed minutes on the pitch, and that has always been the case wherever I’ve been.

“It’s about the work you do in training, how you perform on the day, and the type of football the team plays.”

Haines was pretty much destined to play the game given her family’s love of it.

“My Dad played a lot of football and I’ve got two uncles as well, so we used to play football in the park,” she recalled.

“I remember joining in from an early age because my Dad loves football so much. Regardless of whether I was a boy or a girl, he was always going to get me into football.

“My Dad used to take me to watch Leicester games. He’s actually a big Arsenal fan, but Leicester was our local team.

“It’s a bit crazy actually, because I used to support Man Utd and my Dad is a big Arsenal fan, and you know that they are big rivals.

“I really supported Man Utd just to wind my Dad up a little bit!”

It wasn’t long before those park kickabouts progressed to something more formal.

“When I was about five I started going to local Saturday training sessions with boys, and in my first session I remember getting player of the session,” she said.

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“I just loved it, and there were quite a few girls teams in the area where we lived, so I just joined one.

“When I was six, I got signed up by the Leicester City Centre of Excellence.

“I played for Leicester up until the age of 15, and then my coach was moving to join Birmingham. He asked me if I’d go for a trial there.

“I think at that time Birmingham were top of the Super League, and had won FA Cups and Continental Cups. It was a big club.

“Even though they were in a pro league they weren’t professional. It was still training at nights, but they were in the top league so it wasn’t a hard decision to take.

“The commute to Birmingham from Leicester wasn’t easy though, but fortunately my coach took me to a few sessions and then my Mum also gave me lifts.

“It wasn't only the commute that I had to think about when I was weighing up my options because I was just starting Sixth Form.

“But when you’re 15 years of age and you get offered an opportunity like that, the academics do kind of take a back seat.”

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Success and elevation soon followed.

“I spent almost a full season playing for Birmingham Under-17s and then I got asked to sign a pro contract and was asked to play for the women’s team,” she said.

“I was playing first-team football by the age of 16, and also part of the England set-up

“Back then it was still pretty rare. I was one of the first to get an offer like that.

“Even though it was a pro contract, it wasn’t something where I didn’t need to work. I was still part-time and training at night.

“I went and did a college course in Birmingham which meant I lived in Birmingham full-time and I was more easily able to train in the evenings.

“About a year or two later, Birmingham went full time.”

However, at that stage in the progression of the women’s game, full time didn’t quite mean full time.

“Back then, even though we were full time, most of the women playing for the first team still had jobs as well,” said Haines.

“The difference between what being a pro means now, and what it meant back then, is huge.

“It wasn’t until my last couple of seasons where the girls in the first team didn’t need to have full-time jobs.”

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She quite quickly took her career to another level by playing on the European stage.

“I was lucky enough to play in a few Champions League games and travel with the squad to a few away games abroad.

“Just travelling like that is a really good experience.

“I don’t think I realised at the time how big it was either. I just took every day as it came. If I was in the squad and I didn’t get on, I’d be disappointed in the same way as if it was a friendly.

“Looking back it was so nice to travel away to different countries with the club, and play football there.

“We were playing against some of the best players in the world. I played against Marta, who is one of the greatest of all time.”

After five years at Birmingham, Haines joined Tottenham – initially on loan and then permanently.

“I wasn’t getting much game time at Birmingham, and I’ve always just wanted to play football.

“So going out on loan to Tottenham in order to get game time was my priority.

“I was commuting down to London three nights a week to train, but I love football and I had to do that as I wanted to play.

“There was another girl at Spurs who also lived in Birmingham at that time, so we used to travel down together.

“I really enjoyed playing at Tottenham, and I liked that we had a goal to progress and get promoted to the Super League.

“I wanted to be a part of that and I wanted to stay there and play a role in achieving that.

“I commuted for a year and a half from Birmingham to Tottenham, and then after that I got a job in Hertfordshire and moved down permanently.

“There were a lot of players at Tottenham who are here at Watford now: Lucia Leon, Sophie McLean, Bianca Baptiste and Gemma Davison. Renee Hector (Watford’s Development Team Head Coach) was there too, and she’s a really good friend of mine.

“It’s not uncommon to see groups of players together at different clubs. A lot of us were based in and around north London.

“If a team from up north comes and offers you a contract, there generally isn’t the money to allow you to uproot and move to the other end of the country.

“So a lot of players tend to move between clubs in the same area.”

Having played in the Super League for Spurs, Haines then stepped back down to the Championship again to join Palace – and once more, that was a decision based purely on wanting to give herself the maximum opportunity to play football.

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“It was hard because I was commuting from Hertfordshire to south London, and it was an hour and 45 minutes each way.

“Doing that sometimes five times a week was quite difficult, plus I was going back to night-time training having trained during the day at Spurs.

“It was a no brainer though. Like I say, all I’ve ever wanted to do is play.

“I was lucky that I played a lot of games at Palace, I was captain and I had a lot of responsibility.”

In the summer, after winning the Play-Off Final, Watford got in touch.

“When Watford came to me it worked as it is literally just around the corner from where I live, and when I spoke to Damon Lathrope and Matt Bevan and heard their philosophy and the type of football they want to play it aligned totally with what I wanted to do.

“I played a lot for teams where the philosophy was to go long, win first and second balls, get eight or nine bodies behind the ball and then counter.

“The aspirations Watford have and the style they want to play made it a very easy decision to come here.

“I really enjoy playing the way Damo and Bevs get us playing. They give you confidence to express yourself and do the things you are capable of doing.

“The way this Watford team plays is so much more enjoyable when you’re part of it. Training sessions and games, they’re so enjoyable.

“I’d much rather do what we do than be in a team in a higher league and not play football the way we play.”

However, the return to the Championship has been a test so far, with the Hornets now bottom of the table after Sunday’s home defeat to Sheffield United.

Watford Observer: Coral Haines in action at Birmingham

“It has been a tough start. I don’t think we do need to change much though, if I’m being completely honest.

“The results we’ve had aren’t reflecting our performances. We just need to stick at what we’re good at, which is playing good football.

“Obviously the key thing is you learn from mistakes, and that is something we’re doing. The way we play football does come with a lot of risk, but if we take those risks and make a mistake then the key is we learn from it.

“If something goes wrong in a game, you learn from it and then come back stronger in the next game.

“We’re sticking to the bits we’re good at, and then Damo and Bevs say you just add extra layers to your performances.

“We’ve shown what we can do, but we have to keep adding layers to that so we grow as a squad in order to improve week on week.”

It’s been a story so far for Watford that will resonate with many other teams when they are promoted: the higher you go, the more likely you are to face opponents who prey on your shortcomings.

“It’s all about what happens in both boxes,” said Haines.

“We can have 10 chances but maybe not get the luck in front of goal, give away one chance down the other end and in this league you get punished.

“We’ve played some really good football in every game this season. If you take the goals away, you’d never know which team was winning.

“It’s like I said, what happens in the two boxes decides results and obviously in football it’s the result that counts.”

As she headed out for another night-time training session, Haines said she never looked enviously at the life of the men who also play the game professionally.

“I just don’t really compare men’s football and women’s football.

“We’re all athletes and women’s football has made massive, massive steps forward.

“But the men’s professional, elite level has been around for a much longer time, and so I don’t try to compare the two.

“Nothing phases me in order to be able to play a game of football. I just love to play.”