Looking for a role model? Enter the Lionesses

I started playing football at primary school. I played at breaks and lunch, and in the school’s team. I was the only girl. I enjoyed it so much I started going to coaching with a local football development scheme. This led to me joining the only girls’ team in the city; Peterborough Pythons.

This initiative was picked up and written about in the local paper. It includes a feature on my football career (!) and my proud mum has kept the clipping…

Peterborough Evening Telegraph article on women's football, 1993

Sadly, Peterborough Pythons didn’t last long. We lost our coach through lack of funding. And despite the attempts of a couple of willing parents the team eventually folded.

Reading this article back, 20-odd years later I think it’s a shame that some of the issues identified are still around today, especially the idea that football is a ‘lads-only’ sport. Evidenced by some of the comments about the coverage of the sport by the press.

What is changing for the better is the profile of the women’s game. Now what we need is more investment to increase the opportunities for girls to take up the sport and develop.

Like many people in the UK, and undoubtedly around the world, I’m currently afflicted with World Cup fever.

The first game I watched was Sweden vs Nigeria; a six goal thriller which ended in a draw. I was hooked. I’m like a kid. I’ve got a book and I’ve been filling in the scores for all matches.

I was elated when England’s Lionesses commanded their quarter-final match against the hosts, Canada. They made history with the win that took them to the semi-final.

I was devastated with the semi-final loss to Japan. England were the stronger side, looking hungry for the win and dangerous in front of goal. But sport is cruel.

All the way through the tournament I’ve been thinking about what England’s success will mean for the next generation of female footballers. By success, I don’t just mean winning games.

As a fan and sportsperson I have been so impressed by how the England team have approached each match: professionally and with spirit.

As a team captain the example of leadership shown by Steph Houghton has been an inspiration.

As a supporter it’s so crucial to see what each match means to the players. All the England players have shown skill, composure, dedication and passion.

These are the sporting role models every young girl needs.