“I came down as an 18-year-old Scottish girl who nobody knew about,” Erin Cuthbert tells Sky Sports. “It was all about proving myself.” Six years on from that move from Glasgow to London, the Chelsea midfielder has done that – but she is not finished yet.
With a new contract and an old position, Cuthbert is shining. She scored in the win at Manchester United earlier this month and found the net again against Tottenham. With her goal against Real Madrid on Wednesday, Cuthbert made it three in three.
Her importance to Emma Hayes’ midfield is clear now. The club’s importance to her, likewise. “Chelsea have now become my second family. It feels like home when I step in the building. The values have gone a long way to explaining the success of the club.”
But what are those values? “It is definitely a winning culture. It is win at all costs. Emma breeds that idea that nothing but winning is an option for a club like Chelsea. I love that. I train to play. I work all week for the games and I love that competitive aspect.”
Cuthbert is speaking at the launch of Warzone 2.0, the latest in the Call of Duty franchise, and though her gaming provides a chance to switch off from the pressure of the day job it also highlights that this competitive mentality extends far beyond the pitch.
“I play quite often. It feels like it is a good way for me to kind of relax and unwind and escape all the stress of football and social media. Getting on the headset is a good way to connect with my friends from back home. That’s my way that I keep in touch with them.
“I am always texting my friends half an hour before we go on, ‘Grab your dinner and we are on at seven.’ Gaming is definitely a social thing for me but when I do go on I get really annoyed if we are losing. There is still that competitive streak within me.”
There are games with the Scotland national team. “All in our rooms with our headsets on.” There are games with her Chelsea teammates and even her club rivals. “I play with some of the Manchester United girls. It’s a big part of my life, actually, I just realised.”
But it is football that remains the priority, particularly given that this is proving a breakthrough season for Cuthbert. Her versatility has seen her play as a forward and a wing-back but she appears to have now convinced Hayes to give her a run as a midfielder.
“I have made my case every year for the past six seasons! But Emma is someone who really values experience and so it has taken time for me to prove myself. That is what I have tried to do with all of my little cameo appearances here and there in midfield.
“I always wanted to be a midfielder. I joined Chelsea as a midfielder. Not a lot of people know that because I have played in so many different positions. But there comes a point where you want to know how good you can be. I think the manager sees me there now.
“I had to bide my time playing in a range of positions but I am finally in midfield. That is the position that I see myself playing for my whole career. That was a big factor in signing my new contract. I want to be a midfielder and I am happy that Emma sees me there.”
Playing as a wing-back for much of last season was particularly challenging. “It was not ideal but you make of it what you can. I gave my best. But I am 24 now. Almost halfway through my career. I feel like don’t know how good I can be unless I nail down one position.
“The problem at wing-back is that you rely on the ball coming to you. In midfield, you can go and get the ball, whether it is on the left or the right. If you are a right wing-back and it is on the left, you are not involved. I like to be involved. I like to find the trouble.
“I like the chaos. So I go and find it in the game.”
Cuthbert acknowledges that the long wait, though frustrating, might just have helped to make her to become a better player. This chaos-seeker has added composure to her game, a greater awareness of the tactical demands of every other role on the pitch too.
“You have to be open to learn. As disappointed as I was that I was not playing in midfield since I joined the club, it has taught me a lot. Playing in all of these different positions has taught me to have an appreciation and a better knowledge of the game.
“A lot of it in midfield is reading the game. I have more experience now than the average person my age given the number and the calibre of games that I have played in as well. When I play midfield now I have a better game knowledge, better understanding.”
For all her experience, having already made over 100 appearances in the WSL, this belated positional switch presents possibilities. As the recent glut of goals suggests, Cuthbert is improving. Her best is yet to come. And her best might be better than anyone yet realises.
“I think there is a misconception because people have seen me around for so long but I am not even in my prime yet. I know that my prime years are still to come. I am finally hitting the level of form, the level of consistency, and I am certainly loving it at Chelsea.
“Europe is our next challenge in terms of where we want to be. I have got so many titles already but I want more. I want the Champions League. I think we have got a team capable of competing for it anyway and we can do better than we did last season.
“But now I just want to push on. I don’t know where my ceiling is. I don’t even know if there is one because I have not had long in midfield but I want to see where that ceiling is because I know it is higher than where it is now and it is up to me to show that.
“You are what you make yourself. I want to be in the discussion among the best midfielders in the women’s game. That has to be the goal. I am at a top club so [aiming for] anything less would be a disappointment. I thrive in competitive environments.”
In the gaming headset or on the football pitch, that much is obvious.
Erin was speaking at a launch event for Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0, the free to play Battle Royale experience with fan favourite concepts and brand new features. Available to play now.