England’s most impressive football squad ever? As the Women’s Euros kicks off, FEMAIL reveals how captain Leah Williamson juggles accountancy training with sport and Millie Bright beat life-threatening childhood illness
- England Lionesses will be hoping for a home victory at the Women’s Euros 2022
- Among them is captain Leah Williamson, who is training to be an accountant
- Meanwhile Millie Bright almost died of pneumonia when she was just a week old
As the Women’s Euros kicks off today, the England team are looking to win the country’s first major trophy since the men’s team won the World Cup in 1966.
Sarina Wiegman’s side will start the home tournament among the favourites for glory – with hopes the team will go all the way to the final for the first time since 2009 in Finland, where they lost to Germany.
Should England make it to the final, they would walk out at Wembley Stadium on July 31 looking to avenge the demons of the men’s team after their Euro 2020 penalty shootout defeat to Italy.
And with a team filled with impressive athletes, it’s looking very possible that this summer could be the year football will finally come home.
The team will be lead by captain Leah Williamson, who is balancing her career in football with training to be an accountant.
She will be joined on the pitch by Lucy Bronze, who once worked at a Dominos pizza takeaway, and self declared ‘girly-girl’ Alex Greenwood.
Meanwhile team-mate Georgia Stanway will also be playing – having won high praise from previous England Women’s boss Phil Neville, who has said the Manchester City player could be among the best in the world.
As the Women’s Euros kicks off today, the England team are looking to win the country’s first major trophy since the men’s team won the World Cup in 1966 – with players including self-declared ‘girly-girl’ Alex Greenwood (left and right)
Goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck will be looking to be part of a successful England defence during the tournament, which starts today
Meanwhile Beth Mead risks seeing her ex on the pitch if England are to play against Holland during the contest
Leah Williamson, a central defender, has been praised for having every attribute: pace, temperament and time on the ball.
The 25-year-old, from Milton Keynes, has been playing since she was six and has called it her ‘first love and passion’.
She went on to join Arsenal at the age of nine, having been born into an Arsenal-supporting family.
After watching long jumper Greg Rutherford, who also comes from Milton Keynes, at the 2012 Summer Olympics she briefly considered switching her athletic focus to track and field.
However, luckily for the England squad she stayed focused on her dreams of becoming a footballer.
On Wednesday, the Arsenal centre-back will make her first major tournament start in England’s opening Euro 2022 game against Austria at Old Trafford. She’ll do it as captain.
The Milton Keynes-born star has 31 senior caps to her name – 12 players in the squad have more, including centurions Jill Scott and Ellen White.
Leah Williamson, a central defender, has been praised for having every attribute: pace, temperament and time on the ball
The 25-year-old, from Milton Keynes, has been playing since she was six and has called it her ‘first love and passion’
‘She leads by example and what you see is what you get,’ vice-captain Millie Bright said.
‘She is a very mature individual, both on and off the pitch. She is very calm in the way she leads.
‘It’s been a delight to see her lead the team out and it’s been a big moment for her.’
‘She’s a very humble person, and player, both on and off the field,’ White told the Scotsman.
”I think sometimes with a captain, it is not just what you do away from the game – how you act around the team, and the media.
The Arsenal star has amassed 200,000 followers on Instagram, where she often posts images of her outings with fellow footballers like Alex Scott (pictured centre)
And in May, she was invited by Gucci to Puglia to witness her first-ever fashion show (pictured, on the trip)
The Duke of Cambridge attended the England’s women football team training session during a visit of their training centre at St George’s Park, in Burton-upon-Trent
‘And I think Leah is great with that because it isn’t an act – that is just her, and who she is.’
As well as balancing her career as a professional footballer, Leah is also training to be an accountant.
The Arsenal star has amassed 200,000 followers on Instagram, where she often posts images of her outings with fellow footballers like Alex Scott.
And in May, she was invited by Gucci to Puglia to witness her first-ever fashion show.
The captain was also among the footballers who met with the Duke of Cambridge last month and presented him with three football shirts for his children.
Like her team-mate Williamson, Liverpool-born Alex Greenwood, 29, joined a prestigious club at the age of eight, when she signed for Everton
Like her team-mate Leah, Liverpool-born Alex Greenwood, 29, joined a prestigious club at the age of eight, when she signed for Everton.
She told The Telegraph: ‘I played up with them [boys] and they treated me like a little sister.
‘They didn’t push me away. Not being disrespectful, but probably because I was just as good as them if not better than them.
‘So for them it was, “Why would we push her away? She’s as good as us”. Maybe I have a different story to other people, but I never struggled or suffered, being a girl. If anything I got respected more because I was a girl.’
If there is anyone who understands the pressure of performing in a football match it is her boyfriend Jack O’Connell, 28, who plays as a centre-back for Sheffield United (left and right)
She later joined Liverpool, before signing to Manchester United. She is currently with Manchester City.
Alex is known as one of the most glamorous members of the squad, with team-mate Jordan Nobbs previously saying she is ‘very big into her heels, her dresses and her eyelashes’.
In 2013, she revealed she is a ‘girly-girl’ and loves shopping as well as getting her hair and makeup done.
She told Liverpool Echo: ‘I’ve always been a girly girl and I love getting my hair done but that doesn’t mean I can’t play football.’
If there is anyone who understands the pressure of performing in a football match it is her boyfriend Jack O’Connell, 28, who plays as a centre-back for Sheffield United.
The couple met at school and have been together for several years but prefer to keep a low profile on social media.
They recently jetted off to Dubai for a sun-soaked holiday and shared snaps of the five-star experience on Instagram.
However, she tends to keep a low profile on social media, having previously spoken about how difficult she finds online abuse.
She told The Independent that abuse she received after moving from United to rivals City left her ‘wrecked’, adding: ‘I don’t think people were aware of how badly it actually affected me, because I didn’t let my football suffer…
‘Even if your notifications are off, every time you go on social media to engage with your friends or whatever, it’s there.
‘And naturally as a human being, the negative ones stick. Those are the ones that play in your mind.’
Lifelong passion: Arsenal forward Beth Mead, 27, from North Yorkshire, started playing football at the age of six
Talented: Mead moved to Sunderland aged 16 and juggled a professional career with a degree in Sport Development from Teesside University and commitments as a coach to local schoolchildren
Arsenal forward Beth Mead, 27, from North Yorkshire, started playing football at the age of six.
‘I just loved all kinds of sports. Cross country, cricket – anything,’ she told Her Football Show.
‘I used to go to a local Sunday morning session and I’d play with the boys. I loved it from the first minute. My mum was warned that the boys were quite rough, and was asked if I’d be okay. But she said I was rougher than most of the boys.’
After starting out at a team called California Girls, Mead was picked up by the Middlesbrough Centre of Excellence, now known as Middlesbrough RTC.
She moved to Sunderland aged 16 and juggled a professional career with a degree in Sport Development from Teesside University and commitments as a coach to local schoolchildren.
Mead signed with current club Arsenal in 2017, following in the footsteps of England teammate Jordan Nobbs, who was an inspiration to her growing up.
‘She was in the age group above me [at the Centre of Excellence] but was known for playing for the England youth teams and a huge talent,’ Mead said.
‘I followed a similar pathway to her. She was at Middlesbrough, then went to Sunderland and now I’m at Arsenal with her. I told her that I was a stalker – I’m just following her!’
She made her debut for England’s senior team in 2018 and played in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. However she missed out on the squad for the 2020 Olympics.
She credited the snub with driving her passion last season and says she now feels more ‘confident’.
‘Hopefully I can take that into the Euros,’ she told the Guardian last month. ‘I’m in a good place, I’m in a good headspace, my football has been good so I’m just trying to channel that energy in the right way.’
Lucy Bronze, 30, knows about hard work – having once worked in a Dominos pizza takeaway
She did not take the traditional pathway to success and there was a time when the defender, who has dual nationality through her Portuguese father, thought she might never play for the Lionesses
Lucy Bronze, 30, knows about hard work – having once worked in a Dominos pizza takeaway.
She did not take the traditional pathway to success and there was a time when the defender, who has dual nationality through her Portuguese father, thought she might never play for the Lionesses.
She attended soccer camps in America with former US women’s coach Anson Dorrance, who later signed her to play for the University of North Carolina. Dorrance wrote to the FA as well as clubs in England to try and convince them of Bronze’s ability.
She previously explained: ‘I was 12-years-old and Anson said: “When you’re old enough we want you to play for the university, you’re going to be such a good player”, and he even wrote to a couple of people in England and told them about me. It kind of fell on deaf ears a bit, no one really got back to him. They might potentially be regretting that now!
‘To come from there, and take what is not considered the normal way, and make it to the top, makes everything I’ve done even more special.
‘It makes my family even more proud and I can pat myself on the back a little bit harder for it.’
Bronze has now capped 88 times by England and won the Silver Ball at the 2019 World Cup – the award which recognises the second-most outstanding player at the tournament.
She has played for City and Liverpool, and went abroad with Lyon for three years. The experienced full back then returned to City in 2020.
Overall, she won five trophies across both stints, having lifted the Women’s Super League, two FA WSL Cups and two Women’s FA Cups.
Last month, defender Bronze completed her medical and penned a two-year deal to seal her sensational switch to Barcelona.
Born in Chesterfield in the East Midlands region of England, Millie Bright spent her youngest years immersed in equestrianism
She began playing football at the age of nine, and decided to join the local team after seeing a friend play for the Killamarsh Dynamos
Born in Chesterfield in the East Midlands, Millie Bright’s childhood was marred by hospital visits.
She was only eight days old when she was diagnosed with pneumonia and at one point she was in and out of hospital every other day as a result of terrible asthma and a whooping cough which did not subside until after her 14th birthday.
‘It was really quite bad,’ Bright has previously said about her health problems.
‘Eventually I had a steroid machine at home to help me but before I was old enough for that I had to get an ambulance whenever I was having an attack in the night. That would happen several times a week.
‘Getting older, my asthma has settled down a little bit now, but back then I just had to decide whether I would let it stop me playing or not.’
Millie, a keen equestrian, began playing football at the age of nine, and decided to join the local team after seeing a friend play for the Killamarsh Dynamos.
She was later scouted by Sheffield United and joined their academy team until age 16 before moving to Doncaster Rovers Belles in 2009.
In December 2014, Bright signed with Chelsea ahead of the 2015 season where she remains today.
In her downtime, Bright, who lives in Surrey, enjoys family time or dog walks with her partner Levi, and says she isn’t fussed by the excess that comes with a footballing career.
She prefers casual clothes to big name brands, saying: ‘I don’t want young girls to think that you become a footballer and need expensive clothes to be validated.’
Bright, who has been barred from horse riding by insurers, is also invested in her charity work and is an ambassador for the children’s charity Make-A-Wish.
Georgia Stanway has won high praise from England Women’s boss Phil Neville, who has said the Manchester City player could be among the best in the world (pictured right, Georgia, and left, team-mate Leah Williamson)
Rising star: New Bayern Munich forward Georgia was the youngest player in England’s World Cup squad three years ago but has already proved herself a natural leader and is considered an integral part of the team
Born in Barrow-in-Furness, Georgia Stanway, 23, has been praised for her skills on the pitch for years.
She comes from a sporting family. One brother, JP, plays football for Holker Old Boys in the North West Counties League and another, Wyll, appears almost as frequently in the Barrow Evening Mail as she does, with his cricketing performances for Furness.
She credits competition with the two in the garden and on the beach as key to her development, as well as her Blackburn manager AJ Goodwin.
Having grown up idiolising Alan Shearer, she moved away from her home town aged 16 to pursue her dream of playing football.
Her coaches at City, where she was signed as an 18-year-old from Blackburn Rovers, say it is Stanway’s capacity to perform on any occasion which contributes to the stardust quality.
She is currently signed to Manchester City, whom she joined as an 18-year-old from Blackburn Rovers (pictured right, Georgia with a friend)
In 2016, she was nominated for Young Sports Personality of the Year. It was the first in a string of nominations for the striker, who has gone on to be named the UEFA Women’s Champions League squad in 2018 and PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year in 2019
Stanway’s mother, Joanne, tells of one pre-season at Blackburn in which the then 15-year-old felt her goalscoring was rusty, after she had missed a few one-on-ones in a friendly.
Stanway put her mother in goal and, by her own account, she finished the session ‘black and blue, despite trying to dodge rather than save them’.
In 2016, she was nominated for the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year.
It was the first in a string of nominations for the striker, who has gone on to be named the UEFA Women’s Champions League squad in 2018 and PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year in 2019.
Sports power couple: England’s Georgia Stanway with Rugby League player Olly Ashall-Bott
Showing up to support: Stanway turns out to cheer on her rugby-playing beau when her schedule allows (as seen above) and there is every chance Ashall-Bott will take in a match over the coming weeks
Phil Neville hailed her skills in 2019, saying: ‘If she keeps her feet on ground, keeps working hard, and keeps listening, she is going to be one of the best players in world football.’
The football star also shares a love of sport with her boyfriend: Rugby League player Olly Ashall-Bott, 24.
Originally from Cheshire, Ashall-Bott currently plays for Toulouse Olympique in the Betfred Super League.
Stanway turns out to cheer on her rugby-playing beau when her schedule allows and there is every chance Ashall-Bott will take in a match over the coming weeks.
Goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, 21, from Sheffield, will be representing England having joined Manchester City at the age of just 15
The stunning blonde regularly shares snaps from adventures across the Midlands on her Instagram page
Train driver’s daughter Ellie Roebuck, 21, from Sheffield, joined City at the age of just 15 and signed her first professional contract with the club in 2018.
Although she’s proud to play in Manchester, Roebuck remains true to her home town.
‘I’m massively proud to come from Sheffield,’ she told ManchesterCity.com. ‘Somehow, no matter how long you go away for, it’s always the same when you come back.’
The city has celebrated their homegrown sporting hero by hanging her poster in the train station.
‘My dad’s a train driver and he and mum went down to take selfies with this picture. So they’re loving it,’ she told the BBC.
The team has the possibility of playing at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground if they make it to the semi-finals, which Roebuck says is a huge motivation for her.
‘That would be a dream come true, it’s my Wembley,’ she told the BBC.
Ellie, who began her career as a goalkeeper after her team-mates hesitated to don the gloves, is a product of the Sheffield United centre of excellence.
She was spotted by Manchester City as a teenager and has gone from strength to strength at the club.
The 21-year-old was part of the England squad that won bronze medal in the 2018 Under-20 World Cup in France, however she was an unused substitute in all the fixtures.
The player, one of three goalkeepers in the England squad, has suffered a setback this year after she missed much of the 2021–22 season with a calf injury, limiting her to 10 league appearances out of 22.
However she is hoping for better fortunes in the Women’s Euros.
She added: ‘Playing for your country is one thing, but to do that in a major tournament, and in your own country – it’s incredible.’
Away from the pitch, Roebuck enjoys spending time with her French Bulldog Johnny and regularly shares snaps of her adventures on Instagram.
Glamorous football player Ella Toone has 88k followers on Instagram and regularly shares snaps of her nights out and training sessions
The Manchester United player previously played for Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers, and has represented England at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level
The glamorous football player has 88k followers on Instagram and regularly shares snaps of her nights out and training sessions
She may be one of the youngest members of the team, but 21-year-old Ella Toone, from Manchester, is used to representing the country on an international stage.
The Manchester United player and fan first played for her club as a girl before returning four years ago following stints at Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers.
She has represented England at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level.
After leaving school, whilst playing for Manchester United, she enrolled onto a Level 3 Extended Diploma Sport Science course at Wigan and Leigh College.
The glamorous football player has 88k followers on Instagram and regularly shares snaps of her nights out and training sessions.
She still finds time to watch Manchester United at home and away.
‘I just love going and supporting; it’s been a part of me since I was a little girl. We get tickets for home games for if we’re not training,’ she said.
‘I’ve got a little source at the club who sorts me out away tickets but I’m not telling any of the girls that because it’s just me.’
The player bought a total of 24 tickets for England’s opening match at United’s Old Trafford stadium today.
‘My uncle has bought a box with eight of them, I bought a box for my dad so there’s eight in there. I had four [complimentary tickets] and then I bought 16 so there’s a lot of us,’ she said.
‘Growing up, supporting Manchester United and having the opportunity to play for Manchester United at Old Trafford was so special and a moment that I’ll never forget and then obviously now, stepping out for England is gonna be amazing.
‘I know that you’ve got to take these moments because they don’t come around often. We’ve sold out Old Trafford, we’re playing for England in our home Euros, these are once in a lifetime things so why not just go out there and enjoy it.’
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