It was a relatively quiet summer in terms of signings at Maiden Castle, but this one was a long time in the making…
Liz Ejupi had impressed against Durham on several occasions during her spells at Aston Villa, Charlton Athletic and London City Lionesses – making her a top target for the club’s management.
So when the chance to sign the striker presented itself in the summer, it was a move that seemed to fit both parties – even if geographically it may have seemed challenging.
The path from London to the North East is not well-trodden in footballing terms, but it’s not something that deterred the 27-year-old.
So why did Ejupi decide to make the switch to Maiden Castle this summer?
“I think it was just the right time for me to make the move now,” she explained.
“It’s been an easy transition, even though it’s been from London to Durham.
“It’s been two months now and I feel very welcomed and I just want to push on now.
“Hopefully all the goals and dreams that these girls have had for years, I can be part of that too.”
A key driving factor in the move was the desire to become part of a united and ambitious squad, who came close to promotion last term.
Forming part of that atmosphere was something that ensured Ejupi made the switch – and she hasn’t been disappointed thus far.
“It’s very, very tight-knit,” said the striker.
“These players have been playing together for years. It’s really nice – there are players who have seen other players’ kids grow up at this club and it’s a very big family feel.
“But there’s so much more to it than that. Everyone here is a winner and every player puts in the work regardless of what else is happening.
“Everything I visualised and thought would be the case with this team – even every time I used to play them I thought ‘bloody hell, they’re solid. What a team’ – and now it’s come into my life being here.”
The transition off the field has been aided by the fact Ejupi shares a house with teammate Ali Johnson – with the pair sharing a similar vision when making the move to Durham
“Ali has played at Blackburn and some big clubs herself, and when we met for the first time I did ask the question – ‘why are you here?’
“She said the same as me – the passion from the club and all of that. That’s why we’re here.
“We want to be part of it too.”
And part of it they are.
Ejupi has featured in all Durham’s games thus far this term and netted her first goal in blue during the win at Bristol City last week – at what was a vital time in the game.
And while naturally pleased to get off the mark, the striker is more concerned with how the team fares – and that the positive results keep flowing.
Reflecting on the season, Ejupi said: “I think we started well against Watford, especially in the first half and there were lots of positives to take from that. You could see it meant a lot to the players and people watching to be back with a crowd too.
“Then we had a wake-up call against Sheffield, but being Durham we just put that to bed in the next game – which was a big game for us.
“We turned up in training and everyone is really competitive here, so we were all the first to criticise ourselves after the Sheffield game.
“Now we’re building some momentum and got another good result against Bristol. I got a goal for the team and I think there’s plenty more goals to come from everyone.
“The important thing now is that we keep building that winning mentality.”
The forward is continuing to work hard to ensure she can help the side do just that – but is taking the time to relax off the park, too.
Any followers of Ejupi on Instagram will know that she has already begun exploring the North East and has discovered some favourite locations to relax and unwind following training and when time allows.
That, coupled with the friendly welcome she has received, has undoubtedly helped the transition to living in the area.
“I’m finding life in Durham very good,” she said.
“Everyone at the club has been very welcoming, and everyone in Durham has been too, to be fair.
“The people in the local Tesco… I found out the lady in the local newsagent is from Dartford which isn’t far from my family and is nice! So it’s been good.
“I love going out to the beaches, for walks and around the country.
“There’s a lot to see and I’ve been doing a few bike rides and things when I can.
“I like Seaham and Blackhall Rocks so far, but I want to explore more.”
The main focus though, is undoubtedly on what happens on the field.
Ejupi has quickly become a favourite with many supporters and is keen to play her part in entertaining the fans in the coming weeks and months.
“Football is an entertainment business and all we want to do is beat teams and entertain the crowd,” admitted the forward.
“If we can do that and play good football, that’s why we do it.”