AILEEN WHELAN “can’t wait” to become a new mum with her long-term partner Fern Whelan.
In October, the former Brighton teammates announced they were expecting a baby, just two months after Fern, 32, hung up her boots.
Brighton striker Aileen Whelan (right) juggles full-time football with work as a child therapistCredit: PA:Empics Sport
They arrived at the Seagulls together in 2017, having starred alongside each other at Everton and Notts County.
The duo helped Brighton cruise to promotion to the top tier in their first season at the club, and ensured the south coasters retained WSL status with ease last term.
But they are facing a whole new challenge off the pitch, as they prepare for sleepless nights with their little one who is due in less than 10 weeks.
Aileen, 29, said: “I can’t wait! I have always dreamt of having our own family and we only have three more months of waiting for our baby to arrive.
“There will be less sleep I’m sure, but Fern and I will manage this to ensure I’m still getting enough for me to perform at football.
“I’m not the first player to become a mum whilst still playing, so I know it is possible.
“Sophie Bradley-Auckland at Liverpool had a baby, I’m sure she had a few sleepless nights but returned to playing elite football and is still a great player.”
Ex-England defender Fern retired from Hope Powell’s side, having been plagued with knee and ankle injuries for some time.
And Aileen admitted it was emotional watching her time on the pitch come to an end.
She added: “It was the end of an era for Fern. Football had been her livelihood for most of her life so for her to have to say goodbye to that was very difficult for her.”
Aileen was Brighton’s top scorer last season with five goals – and she has continued her scintillating form this term.
But she is also a whiz with kids, as she juggles full-time football with a career in child therapy.
The striker continued: “I still run a child play therapy company and work part time with my own clients.
“I have four other wonderful therapists that work very hard to support children across Sussex and in the Midlands.
“I started working in a nursery when I was around 16 and I was also on the Special Educational Needs team there.
“I’ve always wanted to work with children, they are so inspiring in what they can do and learn.
“I took particular interest in children with emotional, behavioural, social and cognitive difficulties who struggled to reach their potential.
“That led me to study further into becoming a Certified Play Therapist.”
Brighton turn their attention to facing high-flying Chelsea this weekend, and Aileen is confident the club can claw their way up the table from ninth.
She said: “We set our standards high and aim to always progress year on year.
“With our new signings, Ellie Brazil returning from injury and the experience we have in the team we should be aiming for a comfortable finish in mid table.
“I always want to win every game I play. I’ve played in many cup finals for Notts County, but we always came runners-up, so I still want to push on to achieve that winners medal.
“I want to help push Brighton to be a club that people recognise as challenging for the league title and cup success.
“The drive and passion is innate, and I want to see others around me succeed.”