Talented young footballer scores place at leading girls' football academy

A young schoolgirl is aiming to follow in the footsteps of England Lionesses Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton after signing for a leading girls’ football academy.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 29th October 2021, 4:52 pm
Lily Williamson, a pupil at St Aidan’s RC Primary School in Ashington, has been selected for Sunderland Girls’ Academy.

Ten-year-old Lily Williamson, a pupil at St Aidan’s RC Primary School in Ashington, was selected for Sunderland Girls’ Academy during the summer.

The talented left-winger now trains twice a week at the academy and plays in a league against boys’ teams at the weekend.

Her ambition in the future is to play for the Lionesses, the England women’s football team.

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Lily Williamson with her headteacher Michael Moran.

Lily became interested in football as her brothers always played in the garden and she wanted to join in.

Her skills with a ball were recognised when she went to the Sunderland Physical Development Centre and they suggested she attend the Sunderland Academy trials.

Now she is enjoying developing her talent with regular training and competitive games at Sunderland Girls’ Academy

Lily said: “We train twice a week for two hours and we play on a Saturday against boys in the Russell Foster league.”

Lily said she had enjoyed football ever since the age of six – and wants other girls to consider taking up the sport too.

She added: “More girls becoming interested in football would mean we’d get more talent and more noticed.”

Her footballing success has been encouraged by Michael Moran, acting headteacher of St Aidan’s, which is soon to be part of Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust.

He said: “When I arrived at St Aidan’s in January 2017, I was really keen to found a girls team.

“They have their own kit, own identity and they have as much opportunity as any of the boys.

“St Aidan’s have had five girls chosen to represent East Northumberland Girls’ since I arrived and many of them had never played organised football before.”

He added: “Lily was very clearly very talented when I arrived, and she joined the school team I set up when she was only seven.

“Being selected for Sunderland is the highest achievement of any of our girls so far, we’re all very proud of her, and she sets a wonderful example to our other female athletes.”

Mr Moran set up the first girls’ team football in his previous school in Newcastle, with many of the girls who had never played before coming to the school football club.

Due to their success, he was asked to coach the first ever Newcastle Girls’ School District side in 2017, which has won the North Eastern Championship twice, County league three times and been national finalists twice.

Mr Moran joked: “Lily has just also been selected for her school district, East Northumberland and they are playing their first game against my side, Newcastle Girls’ – so there’s a bit of rivalry between us now.”

Sunderland Girls’ Academy has helped develop stars such as England’s Steph Houghton, who plays for and captains both Manchester City and the England national team.

Other well-known names associated with it include Jill Scott, who also plays for Manchester City and the England team, as well as Sunderland AFC Ladies captain Keira Ramshaw and player Libbi McInnes.

The Sunderland Girls’ Academy offers a comprehensive training programme covering all elements of playing football under the guidance of specialist UEFA and FA qualified coaches.