The news that competitive football is edging closer to a return cannot come quickly enough for the Pilgrims’ leading goalscorer Natasha Knapman, who confesses she has not kicked a ball since lockdown began.
The season’s suspension, and subsequent cancellation, came at the wrong time for the Ladies’ star striker, who has already won two Golden Boot awards.
After scoring 34 goals in the 16-17 season - when Argyle finished runners up in Division One South West - the striker netted a remarkable 61 goals in her team’s promotion season. Things looked good for Knapman the following season, when she knocked in all of the Pilgrims’ four goals in the 4-3 win at Milton Keynes, before netting within five minutes of kick-off against the same opposition in League Cup action.
However, as it often does, injury struck at the worst-possible moment for the Torquay-born striker, with a foot problem keeping her sidelined for six months. She returned to action when coming off the bench to score the equalising goal against Portsmouth at Home Park, and, with her recovery now complete, ‘Tash’ had helped herself to 23 goals before lockdown curtailed the Greens’ campaign.
Knapman was almost lost to the game as a teenager, though, with her promising martial arts career carrying her to Melbourne, Australia to represent England in the World Junior Taekwondo Championships in 2006 – where she won a bronze medal
Despite her undoubted taekwondo prowess, Knapman’s sporting career went in a different direction after joining her local football team.
She said: “I started playing football and enjoyed that instead, and didn't have the time to do both sports at the level I wanted.”
Tash started playing for Totnes and Dartington, before being snapped up by Argyle where she scored 15 goals in three seasons. She moved on to Devon rivals Exeter City, where she played for three seasons, before being rewarded with an opportunity at the highest level with Yeovil Town in the Women's Super League. Her Glovers career began perfectly when she netted an equaliser on her debut in a 4-2 defeat against Reading – where England international Lioness Fran Kirby scored four for the Royals.
Knapman left the Somerset side after scoring six goals in 27 appearances and has not looked back since returning to the Pilgrims.
The Greens’ striker runs a dog walking business outside of football, and has remained active during the lockdown period.
She said: “I have fortunately still been able to work during lock down, I was grateful to be getting out of the house every day to walk dogs of key workers.
“I have taken up running and strangely enjoyed it! I felt I had to do some exercise, as when I was bored, I kept going to the fridge and eating! I have also been going out for long cycles on my bike which I very much enjoy.”
“I am slowly returning to normal amount of work, but a lot of people are yet to return to work so don’t need me to walk their dogs and they do it themselves! I am lucky to have kept going and hope to be back pretty much normal in September when schools return.
“I wouldn’t want to return to football too soon, and I completely understand the club’s decision to not return to training, especially with no start date for the season yet.
“At the moment, I’m just happy walking my dogs, riding my bike and running in the sunshine!"