There may need to be a slight correction to the official Watford FC club website.

In the Watford Women players’ page, Sophie McLean is listed as a midfielder – but that’s all changed.

The 28-year-old has in recent weeks been playing on the right side of a back-three, having spent pretty much the entirety of her career in midfield.

Indeed, she scored twice when Watford won 3-2 away at promotion-chasing Charlton earlier in the season.

So when I asked her what she enjoyed more – scoring twice at The Valley or contributing to clean sheets in wins over Durham and Birmingham – her reply gave the game away.

“Oh the clean sheets, 100%. You don’t want to concede goals,” she said instantly, before pausing and adding, “I sound like a defender now don’t I!”

The 28-year-old former Tottenham player doesn’t just sound like a defender, she looks like she’s played there all of her career, rather than just in the last few weeks.

McLean was outstanding in the 2-0 win over Birmingham City at Grosvenor Vale in February, a game where the Hornets had to survive a total onslaught at the start of the second half before emerging to take all three points.

“That was tough. Mentally and physically it was relentless,” she said.

“It just kept coming back at us, the pressure on the defence felt like it was non-stop for a good 20 minutes.

“It was tough but we came through without conceding a goal.”

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When head coach Damon Lathrope decided to switch formation, it meant a conversation with McLean about moving from midfield to defence.

“I’m one of those people who will do a job anywhere on the pitch if it’s going to help the team,” she said.

“Because it’s a more central position, that’s where I feel most comfortable and so it didn’t bother me at all.

“Years and years ago I think I played two games as a centre-back but that was in a back four. This is a bit different.

“To be honest, I really enjoy it.

“The biggest difference in defence is that the whole game is in front of you.

“So that effects your decision making, because you don’t want to stitch up someone by giving them a dodgy pass.

“You also find you have more time on the ball, and sometimes that can be worse because you end up with too much time and that can lead to bad decisions.

“But I enjoy having the ball and you get so much of it by being at the back. The three of us probably have more of the ball than anyone else on the pitch.

“In midfield you don’t have space to breathe, you’ve always got someone shutting you down.

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“In defence you get more time, but you also find you’re heading the ball a lot more than when you’re playing in midfield.

“Goal kicks and crosses: you’re heading the ball a lot more, but then at set-plays I was always man-marking so that hasn’t really changed.”

McLean admits that since dropping into the back line, she does sometimes have to remind herself in games that when the ball crosses into the opposition half she doesn’t to be going with it.

“Yeah, I do have to tell myself I don’t need to get forward,” she laughed.

“I mean, there are times when I’m exhausted and I don’t really want to join in while everyone else is going forward to try and get a goal.

“But there are definitely times where I’ve started to go forward, then remembered where I am and pulled myself back in.

“I’m really enjoying the new position. I feel like since Christmas I’ve really come back into it. I don’t think I was quite on it at the start of the season.”

Like so many of today’s female footballers, McLean started playing with the boys.

“My brother is only a year older than me and I always used to go along to his training sessions,” she explained.

“I’d be watching every time, and one day his manager asked if I wanted to join in. I was about eight or nine, and from then on I always played football.

“There were no girls I knew playing football then. In primary school I was the only girl that played.

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“I played for the same club as my brother, but in the year below and in the boys’ team.

“Then they started a girls’ team and I joined that.

“After a while I ventured out a bit and my cousin played football for a team in Kent, so I used to travel there from my home in Islington.

“We used to do that journey twice a week, for training on Friday and then a match on Sunday.”

Quite quickly her talent was spotted and she found herself on the books of a well-known club.

“Back in the day there was a London area team and I went for trials there.

“The coach of that team was also the coach of West Ham Under-16s, and he invited me to go there and so that was my first move to a big club.

“I don’t think I was ever an amazing player. I think I’ve always just worked really hard to get into the positions I’ve been in.

“I remember winning ‘most improved player’ at one of my teams, which is the award you don’t want because it means you weren’t very good before!

“But from that point on I just remember working hard and finding I could be a better and better player.

“I’ve never felt a really confident player, and when I was at West Ham I was quite quiet and didn’t talk to many people.”

What brought McLean out of her shell was joining Tottenham in 2017.

“The move to Tottenham was key because I felt more comfortable there. I knew the manager and a lot of the girls, and that helped me progress.

“When I went to Spurs, my manager there was also the manager of the team at my college.

“So that helped me combine staying in education and continuing playing football.”

During her four years at Spurs she was part of a team that won two promotions and ended up in the Super League – a point at which she could have gone ‘all in’ on her footballing career.

“Sometimes I feel like I could have pushed myself to be a full-time footballer.

“I saw many girls that I played with give up their careers and going into full-time football.

“So sometimes I think back and feel I could have done the same, but obviously I’ll never really know.

“I was happy though, and I’ve always enjoyed playing at all the teams I’ve been with.

“When Tottenham got to the Super League that was when I got my first professional contract.

“But I was still working. A lot of the girls didn’t work and they went full-time into football, but for me I liked where I worked and I had the opportunity to go part-time.

“Because you only get one-year deals, I didn’t want to throw everything into football.

“I still work for the same construction company now as I did back then, and it’s a really good company to work for.

“It wasn’t a job I really wanted to give up. Even though we’d just been promoted into the Super League, I knew Spurs would bring loads of players in and it was going to be difficult.

“Without the security of a contract longer than a year, I didn’t just want to give everything else up.

“So I decided to go part-time with my job and be pretty much full-time with my football. It meant that I was working seven days a week though, where a lot of the other girls would be getting more rest.

“But I’m glad I didn’t give up my job, particularly because I ended up with a long-term injury.”

That came during her final season with Tottenham, and coincided with the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I tore a muscle just above my quad in around November, and when I first did it I just did some rehab and went back to training.

“In my first training session back I completely tore it again, and then I ended up needing surgery.

“I had surgery in January, and then six weeks later we went into lockdown because of the pandemic so I had to do all my rehab at home in the garden.

“Then the season was done really, and I was released by Spurs during that time.”

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From the highs of two promotions and a professional contract to doing injury rehab at home and finding herself without a club – it can’t have been easy?

“Yeah, it was hard. I’d just come back from a long-term injury and clubs were probably looking at the risk, but London Bees gave me a chance.

“After that I went to Crystal Palace and then I joined Billericay.

“From playing at those clubs, I got to know a lot of the girls at Watford now.

“I think when I joined I knew about half the squad, and that made it nice as I was coming into a club where I knew so many people.”

Last season McLean was part of the Billericay team that beat Watford 3-2 at Grosvenor Vale to throw a temporary spanner in the works of the Hornets’ promotion campaign.

“I always thought Watford would go back up last season, and when we beat them at home I was actually sad for them.

“I knew a lot of the Watford girls as I said, and Billericay weren’t in an amazing position in the league so it was more of a big deal for Watford.”

However, it was only a few months later that she was heading from Essex to Hertfordshire.

“I was a bit surprised when Watford came in, but pleasantly surprised.

“I had prepared myself to drop down a league, train twice a week and perhaps take it a little easier.

“So by joining Watford I was going back into a set-up where we were fighting for promotion and hoping to be back in the Championship.

“It was nice, but if I’m honest I didn’t expect to find myself in that position.

“I certainly didn’t need much time to think about it though!”

McLean quickly became part of the unstoppable force that Watford were in the second half of the season, one of the highlights of which was a midweek win over fellow promotion-hopefuls Oxford at Vicarage Road.

They came back from a goal down at the break to win 2-1, and McLean said they were given an inspirational half-time team-talk.

“That was a brilliant night.

“I remember at half-time our goalkeeping coach Sophie Harris gave a team talk, and she got everyone buzzing.

“Even though we were 1-0 down, we knew from that moment we were going to win that game.

“It’s all about mindset, and after that team-talk we were ready to go back out and give it our all.”

Then, on the final day of the regular season, Watford had to win away from home . . . at Billericay, McLean’s former club.

The Hornets ran out 3-0 victors to secure their place in the promotion play-off final.

“I think all the girls at Billericay were happy for me, and I didn’t score so that made it better!

“They knew that Watford had a chance of going up to the Championship and I don’t think any of them held a grudge.

“I’m certain if any of the other girls at Billericay were in the same position as me, they would have done the same thing.”

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The play-off final at Stadium MK on a sunny afternoon in May was unforgettable for Watford and some 2,000 fans as the Golden Girls beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 to earn promotion back to the Championship.

“I knew we were going to win that game.

“I think everyone knew. Everyone around the camp was saying the same thing.

“I think I looked at the clock every two minutes of the second half though!

“I can’t even remember much detail of the second half, I was just so in the zone. The game is a bit of a blur to me, but I know how much we all wanted it.”

Of course, promotion has meant a big step up in terms of the quality of the opposition Watford face, and having played in the Championship only a few seasons ago McLean is well placed to judge how much the standard has improved.

“It’s a lot harder now. The competition is higher in every single team.

“With most teams being full time you can tell the difference that makes.

“Physically it’s a hard game every week, and every single team we’ve played has been tough.

“Maybe a few years ago there were one or two teams that you knew would be a bit easier.

“But in the Championship this season there’s not one team that you have that feeling about. Every game’s a battle.”

• Watford Women host Championship leaders Sunderland at Vicarage Road on Sunday (2pm kick-off), and children can attend for free.

Click here to read how you can take the family to the game.