Maddy as an adult mirrored her much loved childhood personality, she was fierce, determined and spirited – three words that would eventually become the slogan for The Maddy Cusack Foundation.
Her passion and enthusiasm on and off the pitch inspired many. During the footballer’s childhood, she crafted her talents under the guidance of her beloved teachers, including Anne Cox, and the support of her family.
After completing her A Levels Maddy enrolled at Derby University, so she could stay near her family, and was awarded a first-class honours degree in Marketing, Advertising and PR. By this point, Maddy was working part-time, studying full-time, and playing at Aston Villa on the weekends.
As Olivia entered adulthood, the bond between herself and her older sister strengthened. Maddy helped Olivia gain a job in marketing at Derby Runner, where she still works today.
“Towards the end of our teenage years, into adult life, we were always super close – we came together a lot more. I think it was because there were four years between us and during that time, you go on similar journeys,” she says. “We found a lot of similarities between us as we could open up more, and could relate to each other. I’d do her makeup. I think she liked to humour me in that way because it could bring us closer. At the beginning, she’d say ‘You’re making me look completely different,’ and I’d say ‘Maddy that’s the point in makeup so sit down and let me do your eyelashes!’”
It was the friendship of her family Maddy cherished above all else. “When Maddy had down days from football or work, she would be with me, my little sister and my mum – she and my mum were best friends. I’d always say to Maddy ‘Don’t you want a group of girls to go out with for a coffee or a night out?’ She’d always be mortified at the idea and say ‘You’re my best mate – you, Mum, and Felicia are. I don’t need friends,’” the social media manager recalled.
Maddy juggled a lot during her adult life. She had a full-time job as a Marketing Executive for Sheffield United, in which she would work Monday to Friday. On Sundays, she would swap the office for the pitch and turn her focus to her career as a semi-professional footballer.
The COVID-19 lockdown forced Maddy to break from her hectic lifestyle. She immediately moved back to Horsley and back into her childhood bedroom. “For the first time in 18 years, her fast-paced lifestyle had slowed down – not stopped because she was still working. I think she was quite annoyed she wasn’t furloughed like everyone else,” says Olivia.
“Everything slowed down and that was really nice for her because we got to just spend time together – we were all just locked in the house together. We did a lot of walking, playing games and just messing about. She liked the simple things, I think because it wasn’t an option for her all the time.”
Although Maddy loved being at home with her family, she was also eager to move back to Sheffield, with her flatmate and football captain, Sophie Barker. The Yorkshire city was not only home to her beloved football team, but also home to her father’s family.
Maddy’s brother, Richard, 29, recalls, “She instantly fell in love with the city – moving to Sheffield was quite a big deal for Maddy because that’s where my dad’s side of the family is from and all his relatives are up there. My dad was very proud of her for doing that. She always said the city felt so warm to her – just home away from home.”
During the footballer’s time in Sheffield, the siblings would often visit her and take a trip down Ecclesall Road to grab a drink from Pom Kitchen. Other times they’ve opted for a bite to eat at Kelham Island’s Cutlery Works.
Despite her love for a caramel latte, and obsession with Greek wraps, Maddy was strict with herself when it came to training, diet and work ethic. When she wasn’t working, a lot of the time she could either be found at the gym or training.
“She was like a manager’s dream,” Richard says, “She was professional, she trained well, ate well. She was always on time. Last year, we had a Christmas dinner around my house and she bought her own – weighed out. She had football the next day and said ‘look, this is what I’m going to have to do’, but even that shows that she was so dedicated to football, and to her family as well. She wouldn’t have missed out on the Christmas meal, she just had to make a few adjustments. She really was a marvel – an example of how to conduct yourself.”
Richard works as a sports journalist for Football London, and is based in Birmingham with his partner, Emily, who was also very close to Maddy. “She always welcomed me with open arms. We were quite different, but that didn’t stop us from having a brilliant connection. We got on so well. She’d always take the time to talk to you and get to know you. And she was like that with everyone.”
Emily witnessed the bond between Maddy and her siblings, as well as the mischief they caused. “They would always play football in the house. They’d break something, but no one would ever admit to it. Deborah was always finding something that was broken because they had kicked a ball around the house.”
Maddy never lost her cheekiness, nor did she ever lose the love and affection of her friends and family. “We’re so lucky that we know how much she loved us, and she knew we loved her. I think that’s very lucky because sometimes you can fall out with people and you might regret things. In this family, there was no question,” Emily says.
For the Cusacks, the festive season remains a very special time of year. Emily recalls a moment from their final. “It’s so vivid. We were all just opening presents and Maddy disappeared, we thought she’d just gone to the toilet. Eventually, she came back down and was head-to-toe in a full Santa suit. She put on this funny voice, and she gave out all her presents. We were all laughing, and she was so happy. It was a really happy time,” the primary school teacher says.
Olivia, Maddy’s sister, added, “I remember looking at her and thinking, she was absolutely crazy.” The
Maddy’s love for the season was infamous but in contrast, she wasn’t typically overly sentimental about Christmas, but Olivia still has a card her sister wrote each member of her immediate family two years ago. “To have something that you could actually read and that she took the time to write meant so much. It was just so left-field for her, but it was so amazing.”
During Maddy’s memorial, Olivia read out a part of the note written inside the Christmas card her sister wrote. ‘Thank you for everything you do for me and for always being there for me. I love you so much and I don’t know where I would be without you.’