Julia Simic talks about settling at West Ham
Credit: Getty/Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United

Julia Simic talks about settling at West Ham

German midfielder on her summer move and staying healthy

soppysophs
Sophie Lawson

Nursing a knock picked up ahead of the start of the second half of the season, we caught up with West Ham’s German import, Julia Simic.

New home

Granted a licence to the top tier with the summer reshuffle and restructure, newly appointed coach, Matt Beard had a dream (or nightmare) job on his hands of putting together an entirely new squad for the new season. Calling upon his vast experience in the game, Beard bolstered his side with imports from across the channel, stretching into the European leagues, plucking one of his new charges from SC Freiburg.

Well known to audiences around Germany, 29-year-old Simic had spent the entirety of her career in the Frauen-Bundesliga before making the move to West Ham in the WSL. Despite being a long way from home, the midfielder seamlessly integrated into the brand spanking new side.

I’ve settled really well, it already been half a year but even after two or three weeks I was really integrated into the team and was coming along well with the language. With the facilities and the package we have here, you can really develop as a player and a team and it’s all helped to settle me.

Having only spent a season in the Black Forest after moving down from VfL Wolfsburg, Simic failed to show the depth of her qualities last season, the midfielder never really looking at home on the pitch. A rather different story from her first months at West Ham, Simic fast carved out a niche for herself in the squad, showing her experience on the pitch to galvanise and lead from the middle of the park.  

From the first day on I was really integrated by Matt because he saw me as central player in my role as well as position and maybe that’s what you can see. I try to be a leader on the pitch as well. Because we have a really young team (of course there are some older and more experienced players as well but) some of them are young and haven’t played at this level before so it’s just natural to be a leader and I think growing into this role.

Sprechen Sie Englisch?

New to the English language as well as the football, Simic and her non-English speaking teammates have been fast to learn the language and the German is at ease with chatting in her new tongue – although it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

It’s hard sometimes and when you’re on the pitch and the words don’t come out automatically; you have to think about it, then translate it in your head and bring it out in a different language. But it’s getting better from week to week, firstly from day to day but now I think I’m on a level where it’s getting better and becoming more natural.

"Sometimes, you don’t understand every word but at the same time, football is easy to understand so that helps; I don’t think it’s a big problem anymore but of course we had a little bit of a language barrier from time to time in the team.

With friendships relaxed within the squad, Simic notes that she has naturally gravitated towards young Swiss attacker, Alisha Lehmann, the two able to converse in German.

Me and Alisha, as we both speak German, we've become really close friends now – we didn’t know each other before even though we had similar friends, we didn’t know each other. But it makes it easier when you have someone speaking your own language and sometimes it’s so much easier to say something in German than English so it’s just natural that we are friends, also with Esmee de Graaf and Lucienne Reichardt (the other non-English speaking foreigners). From day one of course you try to be more in these groups because they’re easier to understand and easier to speak but when you see the whole team; everyone is really good about integrating us. Even if you don’t understand every word, they’re good at explaining it to you.”

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As always, the weather 

In one of her first interviews [in German] after signing her contract, the 29-year-old admitted England hadn’t been her first choice, the diminutive midfielder craving warm weather had her eyes set elsewhere on the continent. However, given an offer she couldn’t refuse, drawn in by the level of the league as well as the intriguing project with the Irons, Simic is happy to report she has no regrets.

I’m surprised by the weather, it’s not as cold as in Germany and there’s not been as much rain as I expected! To be honest, I rented a convertible car because my plan was to go to the south of Europe, but I ended up here. I didn’t plan to come over here because I know it’s the last few years of my career and I wanted to see something more than just football but when I got the offer and talked to Matt, it convinced me, I really wanted to be a professional again and play at this level.”

Having progressed through the German youth ranks, Simic was on course to realise her dream in 2011 when she was called into the senior side as Die Nationalelf got their Euro 2013 qualification underway. Unfortunately for the Fürth-native, an ACL injury in the first training saw her miss out the majority of the season, the midfielder not making her senior bow until 2016. Though only managing two substitute appearances, first against Austria then the Netherlands (both 4-2 wins), Simic is honest about her chances of earning another cap, the change of manager not enough to get her hopes up.  

I’ve always said, if it happens, I’ll take it but from a physical standpoint with my body and my knee… I’m really glad when I can play on a Sunday here and when I can play the next game I will be happy. It was always in my head, my dream was to play for Germany, and I made it, it was only two caps but I still made it and right now I’m realistic enough to know my chances.

As for goals for the year?

Staying healthy is my main goal but with the team, continuing developing like we did in the last six months and growing more as a team.”

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