Chelsea's Erin Cuthbert has become a vital player in the midfield for Emma Hayes as they look to accomplish a quadruple at the end of the season. (Photo by Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

LONDON -- The day after Chelsea's League Cup semifinal win away at Manchester City's Joie Stadium, Chelsea posted a video on social media of Erin Cuthbert with the caption, "Erin Cuthbert is proper Chels." The video had the diminutive footballer geeing up the away support, throwing her arms into the air, and shouting, "C'mon!" just after the narrow win to ensure the Blues' safe passage into the final.

The short clip is indicative of the player who has spent her senior career at Chelsea, a midfielder who has had to earn everything the hard way since moving to England, slowly being integrated into the stacked team and eventually making her case to be a starter.

When ESPN sat down with Cuthbert at Stamford Bridge ahead of Chelsea's Friday night clash with Arsenal, rather than her regular training kit, the midfielder was decked out in full kit right down to the clean boots on her feet. Fully suited and booted, there is a clear sense of pride that comes with donning the kit, and having shared captaincy duties with Niamh Charles this season there's no question surrounding Cuthbert's importance and seniority in the team now.

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In an interview with the BBC last year, the 25-year-old alluded to a more natural aptitude and ability for football, but it's clear that she's always taken a studious approach to the sport over the years. Even when she was still young enough to be physically dragged home for dinner by her mother, Cuthbert's love for the game couldn't be tamed.

"I remember asking my dad for extra practice in the evening: I wanted him to come help me, help me on my first touch and my control," Cuthbert tells ESPN. "My dad kind of nurtured my want to play football. He never ever pushed me into football, never ever wanted me to be a professional footballer or anything like that: he just wanted to nurture what I wanted to do in life.

"And I think it was clear from an early age that I wanted to be a footballer. My papa has a big role in that. He used to pick me up from school every day. I used to play football with a dog, Benji, who's no longer here. He used to throw it to Benji and he'd head it back. I have such great memories of my childhood playing football."

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Growing up as so many of her peers did on a diet of vintage Barcelona with proponents of the game like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets, Cuthbert looked to learn from and adapt to the effortless Blaugrana football, leaning into the technical to negate her lack of height and physicality. The next big lesson in Cuthbert's education came after her move from the Scottish Women's Premier League to the leading club in England.

Signed by Chelsea at 17, with her star on the rise and expectations on her to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Kim Little to rise to the highest echelons and top percentile of the game, Cuthbert struggled to displace the established starters.

"And I used to go home from training, and I used to enjoy training, don't get me wrong, I loved it, I loved training, but I didn't quite feel fulfilled," she says. "I felt like there was always something more that I could give. And I knew I was capable of something more in me and I was trying my best to get it out, but maybe positionally I wasn't quite able to.

"You've got the likes of Ji So-yun, Katie Chapman and Karen Carney at the club at the time when I joined: top midfielders who you can't exactly jostle out the way, so you have to bide your time. And I did bide my time and Emma [Hayes] finally gave me the opportunity." Yet even after Chapman and Carney had retired, Cuthbert's path would twist and turn before she could have a clear run in the team.

Similar to teammate Guro Reiten, the young Scot found herself deployed in unnatural positions that required her to adjust, ultimately rounding out her game and helping her development further, before she settled into her preferred No.8 role.

Cuthbert has won a multitude of trophies for Chelsea, including an impressive six Women's Super League titles. (Photo by Matt Lewis - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

"I've played defensive midfielder, I've played as a 10, but I'm kind of a midfielder that likes a bit of both: I like getting stuck in, but I like sort of affecting the game and in critical areas and being the one that makes key passes and stuff," she says. "So, I think I've added both sides to my game now. And I think that's also came with experience of playing different positions. I have a greater appreciation for the roles that everyone else has on the pitch as well."

For Cuthbert, it wasn't so easy to just wait for her chance to shine. Instead, she needed to rely on her own strength, and as she puts it, her "determination to prove everybody wrong" to see her through.

"Sometimes I did feel out my depth, I felt like I was drowning, she says. "You feel like you have sort of imposter syndrome, you feel like you don't feel like you belong there. But I think the girl from Scotland, the resilient little girl that didn't really care who was in her way, didn't really care what player it was that was in front of her, I just wanted to give my best account of myself. And I knew that if I kept doing that repeatedly, then it would get me a spot in the team."

The grit and determination from the midfielder has paid dividends and since establishing herself in Emma Hayes' team, Cuthbert has been a consistent, and arguably underrated, performer for the Blues.

The success with Chelsea has come with relative ease as the London club is always in the conversation for silverware, but internationally, things have been a world away for the 25-year-old. Marked out as a talent from a young age, Cuthbert was included in Anna Signeul's squad for the 2017 European Championships -- the first major tournament a senior Scottish women's team had ever qualified for. Although playing a muted role in the Netherlands, the midfielder became a familiar face around the Scotland team and ended up playing a starring role in Scotland's memorable, but ultimately heartbreaking, run at the 2019 World Cup.

Yet since 2019, Scotland has failed to qualify for another tournament, and in a dressing room full of international stars who can usually be seen at major tournaments, Cuthbert admits it's not so easy.

With 65 caps and 22 goals to her name, Cuthbert is one of the more important players on Pedro Martínez Losa's Scotland side. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images)

"I think that's difficult; you're in the dressing room, you hear it leading up to a major tournament, three months before or every day someone's mentioned something, what's your travel plans?", she says. "And I'm thinking, I'm going to my summer holidays, but I would much rather be going to a major tournament. So, yeah, it's hard.

"But that also is what gives me the drive to succeed at Chelsea because when you don't have something at a major tournament or you don't have something with your national team, I was so determined to make the best year I had at Chelsea."

Yet she sees the silver lining within the storm cloud that comes with failed qualification bids.

"This is just subjectively what I think: when you've got a major tournament with a national team, you maybe hold back in your club performances a couple of weeks before," she says. "Nobody wants to get injured, you're scared. That's probably how I felt in 2019 when I went to the World Cup: I didn't want to get injured, I was scared of going into tackles the last few weeks.

"But [now] I had no fear; I was only going on my summer holidays; I was only going to miss that. So, I'm 100%, full throttle, with Chelsea and I think it's actually worked to my benefit, albeit I would much rather be at a major tournament. And I think when I go to Scotland, we'll be making sure that we're trying to do everything we can because a lot of the girls deserve to be there."

Two-time Scotland Player of the Year, there can be no question that Cuthbert is fulfilling the potential seen in her from a young age, as her name was already added to the Scottish Football Roll of Honour. When asked about being perceived as a role model for girls in Scotland, be that through talk or just her own visibility and success, the 25-year-old shied away from the notion of grandstanding. A player who has always been about getting stuck in, never shy of coming away from a challenge bloodied or muddied, it's of little surprise that her attitude off the pitch aligns with who she is on it.

"I think I want to become a role model through my actions: say less, do more," she says. "I'm very much let your talking beyond the pitch, let football do the talking. We don't need to be big speakers off the pitch. I think we have a duty to also want more and demand more from everything around football and the standards, the resources, equipment, and facilities.

"We can do so much better. But I think I'm very much action-led, and I think you see that in my performances as well. I don't like all the talk and all the noise around certain things. I just like to let my football do the talking and the little girl that just loves to play football, just let her play. And that's what I want young girls to do when they're grown up as well as I had the luck of doing that."