Jenna Schillaci, the long-serving captain of Tottenham Women, has said she has “lived the football dream” after announcing her retirement at the age of 36.
The defender ends 12 years of service at the club which has spanned three promotion-winning campaigns, eight trophies and more than 200 appearances.
She was part of the Tottenham side which won the quadruple during the 2016-17 season prior to entering the Women’s Super League, where she captained Spurs during the club’s inaugural season in the top flight.
Having made her debut for the club as a 16-year-old, she spent an initial season with Spurs before spells with Queens Park Rangers and her local club, Enfield Town. She returned in 2009 and played a central role in Tottenham’s rise through the football pyramid.
“It makes me so proud to look back at where the club was when I was 16 to where I am now,” Schillaci told Telegraph Sport. “I’ve lived the football dream. I’ve played grassroots, I’ve played for my dad’s team and I’ve come up the leagues to the top league.
“It was a really hard decision for me to retire. The ideal situation would have been a return to the league and have a proper maybe, end to it, but it wasn’t to be.”
Schillaci spent 12 years as an administrator for the London Playing Fields foundation before switching to full-time football last July ahead of making her bow in the professional WSL, signing her first professional club contract aged 35.
The Lilywhites finished seventh when play was halted by coronavirus on March 13, having won six of their 15 fixtures. Their 5-0 victory over Coventry in the FA Cup last February proved to be Schillaci’s last game for the club.
“Being a new team in the WSL was never going to be easy and our aim at the beginning of the season was just to establish ourselves,” said Schillaci. “I think we surprised ourselves in some way with how well we did.
“I know I want to stay in and around the game. I’ve got so much to give back, I’ve learnt so much and hopefully my experiences will inspire younger generations to chase their dreams.”
Karen Hills, Tottenham’s co-head coach, hailed Schillaci as a “true leader on and off the pitch” while club chairman Daniel Levy praised her “incredible contribution” to the club.
Levy said: “We should like to express our thanks to Jenna for her many years of loyal service and wish her the best of luck in the future. She remains a valued member of the Spurs family.”