When Jenna Schillaci first joined Tottenham Hotspur, the club was playing in the fourth tier of the English women’s football pyramid. Today, after 200 matches, eight trophies, and three promotions, Schillaci is hanging up her boots and retiring from football at age 36.
Our captain @JennaSchillaci has called time on her playing career after an incredible 12 seasons at the Club.— Tottenham Hotspur Women (@SpursWomen) June 26, 2020
Thank you for the many wonderful memories, Jenna, enjoy your retirement!
https://t.co/ioY2KkWy93#ThankYouJenna ⚪️ #COYS pic.twitter.com/jOTka6XXpp
Tottenham Hotspur Women has progressed enormously over the past decade plus, and Schillaci has been a part of it the entire time. With her as part of the club, Spurs went from a team playing in regional divisions in front of literally tens of fans to successfully completing their first season in the top flight WSL. She made her club debut for Spurs at age 16, had spells playing at local side Enfield Town and QPR, and then returned to Tottenham in 2009, where she remained for the rest of her career.
Schillachi, a defender, was an integral part of the historic 2016/17 side that won four trophies and promoted to the second tier FAWC. Over her career she has seen Spurs transition from part time amateur football all the way to a fully professional side playing with full internationals and against some of the best women’s football players on the planet.
Schillaci was offered a full contract after Spurs’ promotion last season, but her playing time went down significantly this year — she made just three WSL appearances, all of them starts, this season with just 270 minutes of action, though she also had minutes in the domestic cup competitions. Her last match for Spurs was the 5-0 win over Coventry United in the FA Cup that saw Spurs reach the quarterfinals.
Jenna told the BBC that the decision to retire is the right one, though she admits it’s bittersweet.
“It’s been a decision I haven’t taken lightly but I feel ready. I’ve lived my dream and turned professional with the club, something many years ago I never thought was possible.
“The season came to a stop (because of the coronavirus pandemic) and that definitely made it (the decision to retire) more difficult for me. I played my last match on a Monday night in Coventry without even realizing.
“It hurts a bit when you think about how it has ended and I’d be lying if I said that’s the way I wanted to go out, but there are bigger things than football.”
Schillaci also told the Telegraph that while her playing days are done, she wants to stay involved in football going forward, which could include getting her coaching badges.
“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. 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.”
Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy also spoke glowingly about Schillaci’s contributions to Spurs over her long tenure.
“Jenna has made an incredible contribution to our Club as a player and captain, playing a significant role in the progress and evolution of Spurs Women to get to where we are today, competing at the top level of the women’s game.
“She has represented the Club with diligence and distinction for more than a decade, not only on the field but also outside of the matchday environment, where she has frequently involved herself in the Club’s work in the local community and the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. 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.”
While her playing time has diminished, she leaves behind a huge hole in the squad in terms of both leadership and presence. Spurs haven’t known a team without Jenna Schillaci for a decade. Whenever women’s football starts up again, Tottenham will feel just a little bit emptier without her there.