Role-model Bronze has ‘ushered new age’ for women’s football

Lucy Bronze celebrates her goal against Canada in the quarter-final of this summer's Women's World Cup.
Lucy Bronze celebrates her goal against Canada in the quarter-final of this summer's Women's World Cup.
0
Have your say

In her own words, 2015 has been amazing and a whirlwind. And it could become even better this weekend, if Lucy Bronze is crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The talented footballer from Northumberland is on a star-studded shortlist, which includes Davis Cup hero Andy Murray and gold medal-winning athletes Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis Hill.

The winner will be decided by a public vote on the night of the awards ceremony, which takes place at the SSE Arena, Belfast, on Sunday, with coverage on the BBC.

And England and Manchester City footballer Bronze, 24, admits that, no matter what happens on the night, she is honoured to be one of the 12 finalists in with a chance of winning the prize.

She said: “It is still sinking in. I can’t get over the fact that it is me that has been nominated alongside global stars like Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah.

“They are certainly people that I look up to as celebrities and my sister has got a picture of Jessica Ennis-Hill in her bedroom. To be on a list with those sorts of stars is humbling and an honour.”

Indeed, looking at the high-quality field, Bronze certainly faces a tough task to walk away with the Sports Personality trophy.

But who would bet against this talented footballer, who, along with her England teammates, has helped raise the profile of the women’s game, propelling its popularity into another dimension following their historic third-place World Cup finish in Canada in the summer?

And it was at this tournament that Bronze became the darling of English football. Her screamer against Norway in the last 16, followed by a goal against the hosts in the quarter-final catapulted her well and truly into the spotlight.

Recognition for her World Cup heroics has ranged from becoming the new face of Sainsbury’s Active Kids campaign to being named England player of the year at the 2015 FA Women’s Football Awards a fortnight ago.

It is testament to her hard work, commitment and drive; traits which she has shown since she was young.

As a junior, she played for Belford in the Glendale League and joined Alnwick Town Juniors when she was 10.

Even at that tender age, her coach at Alnwick, Ray Smith, said he knew there was something special about her.

He said: “She played with the boys and she was no problem at all. I only had to tell her once, where as I had to tell the boys 10 times. I knew she was special – the way she kicked a football and the fact that she always wanted to learn all the time. She just got better and better.”

However, at the age of 12, Bronze was forced to quit the black ’n’ whites as FA rules prevented mixed teams. Those rules have since been changed.

Ray said: “There was an issue where it got to the stage where she was not allowed to play with the boys. Her mum wanted her to do athletics and pack the football in, but I had stern words with her and said ‘no, take her to a ladies football club and she can go all the way’.”

Luckily Blyth Town had a girls’ team and she joined the academy at Sunderland. Bronze began her professional playing career with the Lady Black Cats and was named player of the match in the FA Cup Final in 2009.

She then won a soccer scholarship to study at North Carolina University – the foundations of which were laid a few years before when Trident Soccer, run by Northumberland-based Jobson brothers Ryan and Shaun, sponsored her to take part in football camps State-side.

Bronze subsequently signed for Everton and then Liverpool before joining Manchester City in 2014. A Champions League campaign beckons.

Despite playing at the highest level, Bronze has never forgotten her roots and has become an ambassador for Alnwick Town’s girls’ section, which has flourished since her World Cup exploits.

She has taken part in kick abouts with the youngsters and is determined to grow the women’s grass-roots game. It is for this reason that Ryan Jobson thinks she is a worthy contender for the Sports Personality accolade. He said: “She has helped usher a new age for women’s football. She has become a recognised name and is a great role model.”

The Gazette is encouraging all our readers to put it on display and vote for her on Sunday.

You can vote by phone or online during Sunday’s programme, which starts at 6.50pm and will be screened on BBC One. For more information, visit bbc.co.uk/sport/sports-personality