IN the sixth edition of our new series, we get to know the journey that another of our QPR FC Women stars has taken to get to this stage of their career with the R’s.
Next up is captain and right-back Hayley Peacock, who joined Rangers in 2016 after completing her PhD in Geography at Queen Mary University.
The south Londoner is from a real footballing family and she now proudly flies the Peacock family flag in the blue and white hoops of QPR.
Favourite position: Full-back
Best quality as a footballer: Work-rate and fearlessness
Best quality as a person: I like to make people feel happy and relaxed
Sum yourself in five words: Weird, happy, inquisitive, approachable, (sometimes) funny
Nickname: HP, HP Sauce
Favourite type of music: Old school rock and power ballads
Footballing role model: Rachel Yankee and Ian Wright
Something we don’t know about you: Ahead of the 2010 World Cup, I appeared in the video of an unofficial World Cup song called ‘We’re England Underneath’ that had Peter Shilton singing the lyrics!
Eating fish and chips in front of the television while you watch Football Focus on a Saturday lunch-time. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
That was Hayley Peacock’s routine growing up; round to grandads every weekend, cod and chips in hand, Football Focus on the box.
Rangers’ now-captain has her dad’s side of the family to thank for her passion for football. Dad, grandad and uncle all played for the same Sunday League team when she was younger and, because of that, she wanted to be like them all.
Whether she was at school, at Brownies Club, in the garden or at the park, she wanted to be playing football like dad, grandad and uncle.
“I remember Saturdays at my grandad’s used to be the best thing ever,” Peacock told www.qpr.co.uk. “Football has always been a huge part of my life and I was always begging my dad to play football with me.
“The only reason I used to go to Brownies was because they had a football. They only had one – it was a foam ball – but I always used to find it and would kick it around constantly. I bet it was really annoying for the others there!”
A bundle of energy as a child, Peacock played for her school’s boys’ team – initially in goal – until she reached the age where boys and girls were no longer allowed to compete with or against each other.
Fortunately, however, Crystal Palace had just started their girls’ youth system, meaning that from age 12 she was still able to get her football fix.
“I loved playing at Palace. I always enjoyed going to training and I made so many friends but when I got to 16 I had to go into the senior team because there wasn’t an age group in between.
“I was 16 and I was now surrounded by all of these 30-year-old players and I was terrified. I was small growing up and remember saying to my dad ‘I can’t play any more’, so I stopped club football until I finished uni.”
Education took priority for the next few years with a Degree in Script Writing, Masters in Anthropology and PhD in Geography being achieved at Goldsmiths, UCL and Queen Mary University respectively.
Whilst studying for her PhD, she was playing for the university team and had the taste for football firmly back. Trials at West Ham United came post-uni and in 2016 she joined the R’s.
This season, Peacock has worn the captain’s armband and Rangers were on course to win a league and cup double until the campaign was declared null and void due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Although she has nothing to show for it, in terms of silverware, this season has been one where Peacock’s love for the game has grown even more.
“I had a great football coach at uni and the set-up now at QPR is very similar. Steve [Quashie] and Jon [Whittingham] fill you with so much belief and they are very approachable.
“Steve is so experienced and has a real passion for QPR and that is so infectious. He’s a fantastic figurehead – a perfect ambassador – and because of that we all want to do well for him, as well as each other. We have an amazing environment and that is one of the reasons we did so well this year.
“The club means so much to me now and I’ve been really proud to captain the team this season.”
Away from football, Peacock’s day job sees her work as a Researcher in east London. The focus of her work is homelessness, which given the current global pandemic is particularly relevant.
“One of my biggest motivators in life is being able to do something meaningful. Even if it is something small, I like to make a contribution to people in some way; be that raising money for charity, helping friends or whatever.
“I’m able to get that through football and my work. COVID is obviously having a huge impact on everyone and hopefully my work can help to reduce the number of people who will be exposed to homelessness in the coming months.”
Her commute to QPR training can often take a couple of hours but that, of course, is a minor nuisance compared to some of the problems faced by those she encounters through her work.
“It’s sounds cliché but through work I have learned to never take things for granted. It can be tough balancing work and football but that is nothing in the grand scheme of things.
“We have such a good group at QPR that I’d travel five hours to get to training! I enjoy my work and I enjoy my football and I can’t wait for it to come back and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve as a team.”