England star Lucy Bronze was kicked out of an all-boys team despite being their best player as a kid and juggled playing football with working for Domino’s Pizza… now she’s on the brink of being named the world’s best
- Lucy Bronze was England’s standout player during their 3-0 win over Norway
- She scored a rocket shot for England’s third from a rehearsed set-piece routine
- The Lyon player is among a generation who have had to fight for every inch
- As a youngster she was kicked out of a boys’ team despite being their best player
- She later juggled work at Domino’s with football but is now among world’s best
It was something Lucy Bronze said when the dust had settled that reminded you how football sublimity is nearly always underpinned by the hard yards; the precious extra minutes on the training ground.
The England defender was discussing the rocket shot from substitute Beth Mead’s short free-kick, which had just powered her team to a World Cup semi-final, when she threw out, matter-of-fact: ‘It was something we kind of worked on this morning, just quickly.’
The idea had actually been that Keira Walsh would strike the ball Mead rolled out but something told Bronze it would be her night.
Lucy Bronze was not meant to be on the receiving end of the Beth Mead’s free-kick last night
But she believed it would be her night and smashed the ball into the net to ensure a 3-0 win
England defeated Norway to reach the World Cup semi-finals and were inspired by Bronze
‘Keira should have been hitting it,’ England manager Phil Neville revealed. ‘But Lucy said “I’ll hit it tonight because I’ll score”.’
Neville never tires of relating that the challenge of managing this team include the women team’s capacity to ‘ask ‘why?’ more often than men.
They break down the coach/player hierarchy in a way that Gareth Southgate’s players do not. They’ve been the ones putting the coaching team under pressure to help them improve their set-piece work.
‘We grill the coaches a lot for them over the past two years but obviously they’re paying off now,’ Bronze said. Alex Greenwood’s goal against Cameroon came from the same process.
Bronze is going to a second successive World Cup semi-final yet she belongs to a generation of women players who have had to fight every inch of the way and make every last morning on the training fields count.
Bronze and her team-mates break the barrier between coach and player and demand more
They are always challenging the staff and their set-piece routine last night was a result of that
Her mother Diane, a maths teacher, described earlier this month how her daughter – who was born in Berwick-on-Tweed near Northumberland’s Scottish border and grew up on the historic Holy Island – faced that familiar obstacle of being barred from the game she wanted to play.
Bronze was the best player in the boys’ ranks at Alnwick Town but FIFA regulations forbade her form playing after the age of 12, forcing her to travel more than an hour south to Blyth, near Newcastle, where there was a girls’ team.
Even after she had been a part of the England Under-19 squad that won the European Championship in Belarus, 10 years ago, she was juggling playing for Sunderland – her first club – with a job at Domino’s Pizza.
‘The lads she was working with couldn’t believe she’d won something like that and was still working in Domino’s,’ her mother said.
Bronze is among a generation of talent who had to fight for every inch to make it in the game
She had to leave an all-boys team in her youth due to the rules despite being their best player
The world has turned for girls who want to play now. Alnwick Town have a girls and women’s team. But her struggle to persevere does deconstruct that notion – doing the rounds before England’s game against a Norway – that Neville’s players were somehow the aristocrats in Le Havre.
If there is a chink in England’s armour down the lethal right flank, then it is the space which can open up behind Bronze when she marauds up ahead. Kristine Minde nearly exploited that early in the first half on Thursday night. Nikita Parris drops deep to cover but cannot always make it.
But Neville will take that element of risk in exchange for what Bronze brings. He declared last night that Bronze was the ‘100 per cent’ stand-out candidate for the Balon d’Or.
‘She doesn’t get the respect she deserves,’ he said. ‘She has GOT to win the Ballon d’Or. She is the best. Nobody like her with those physical determination, quality and ability to produce unbelievable performances every single game. I am lucky.’
Phil Neville has hailed Bronze and believes the England star is the best player in the world
Norway’s Martin Sjogren looked beaten down. ‘Lucy Bronze is a tremendous player,’ he said in the aftermath.
‘She is absolutely one of the best players in the world. We knew the right side of England was very good and talked about it. But no matter how much you prepare you can’t be immune to anything.’
Bronze is not one of the most outgoing of Neville’s players yet she speaks with the air of an individual who knows how hard she has had to work to be where she stands today.
‘Four years ago I might have been a surprise to everybody else but not to me,’ she said.
‘I knew I had the capabilities to step up and play for England in a World Cup and I’ve done the same in this World Cup. I’ve still got a lot of things I’ve got to work on. I’m still striving to be the best player I can be. It’s the same as it’s always been in my career.’