Millie Bright: From Killamarsh Dynamos to England's World Cup captain via Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers Belles

The woman who will lead England’s Lionesses into World Cup battle on Saturday morning grew up banging in 40 goals a season for Killamarsh Dynamos, was developed in the Sheffield United academy and played for Doncaster Rovers Belles in the Women’s Super League at age 16.

Millie Bright is an England captain who embodies the grassroots journey of a female footballer.

All the clubs she touched on her route to the top are immensely proud of her, and the 29-year-old Chelsea defender herself never forgot her roots.

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In the clubhouses of the teams and the homes of the team-mates and coaches who helped her on her way, there will be enormous pride when she wears the captain’s armband for England’s first game of the World Cup against Haiti on Saturday morning (10.30 UK time).

Homegrown talent: Millie Bright has come from Killamarsh on the border of Rotherham and Sheffield to the captaincy of England at a World Cup. (Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)Homegrown talent: Millie Bright has come from Killamarsh on the border of Rotherham and Sheffield to the captaincy of England at a World Cup. (Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Homegrown talent: Millie Bright has come from Killamarsh on the border of Rotherham and Sheffield to the captaincy of England at a World Cup. (Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Her rise to the captaincy of her country has been hastened by the injury sustained by the Lionesses Euros-winning leader Leah Williamson, but for John Buckley - her coach at Doncaster Rovers Belles from 2009 to 2015 - she always had the traits of a player who leads by example.

“She’s that type of girl, she’ll be an ideal captain because she very rarely plays poorly,” says Buckley.

“She’s always had it in her even though when she came to us she was only young, but she was quite a prominent girl, even at a young age she’d stand up for herself.

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“We took her from Sheffield United’s Academy before she was 16, along with Beth England (Lionesses striker).

Millie Bright in her formative years with Doncaster Rovers Belles (Picture: Steve Taylor)Millie Bright in her formative years with Doncaster Rovers Belles (Picture: Steve Taylor)
Millie Bright in her formative years with Doncaster Rovers Belles (Picture: Steve Taylor)

“Millie was one of the ones who played from the very start. She was probably in far too young, but just her sheer physicality helped, nothing phased her in that respect.

“She was a good player, she was just a wee bit forceful with how she passed the ball. But you could tell she was going to be a good player.”

Did Buckley ever think she would be England captain?

“I’d have said ‘no’,” he admits, “so she’s surpassed what we expected of her, and full credit to the girl.”

Millie Bright will lead England's Lionesses out at the World Cup (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)Millie Bright will lead England's Lionesses out at the World Cup (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Millie Bright will lead England's Lionesses out at the World Cup (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Bright has become a household name as a defender, an enormous presence at the heart of England’s backline.

In her youth that size was used as an attacking force. At her first junior club Killamarsh Dynamos she was a striker who scored 40 goals one season in the Under-12s.

She still goes back to the club that is a beacon for junior footballers in the town she grew up in.

Dynamos chairman Mick Atherton says: “It was clear from day one she was going to go on to bigger and better things.

England's defender Millie Bright celebrates with members of her family after the Arnold Clark Cup women's international football match between England and Germany at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton (Picture: Adrian DENNIS / AFP via Getty Images)England's defender Millie Bright celebrates with members of her family after the Arnold Clark Cup women's international football match between England and Germany at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton (Picture: Adrian DENNIS / AFP via Getty Images)
England's defender Millie Bright celebrates with members of her family after the Arnold Clark Cup women's international football match between England and Germany at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton (Picture: Adrian DENNIS / AFP via Getty Images)
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“We all look at her with immense pride to see how far she’s gone.

“The whole village is proud of her. She’s still Killamarsh at heart, which is fantastic.”

Bright was still a striker when she moved to the Belles.

Buckley continues: “We played her up front, she wasn’t an outstanding goalscorer but she caused havoc because she was so strong and aggressive, and bear in mind, when Millie stepped into that team, Belles were a good team but we were playing against the best players in England and even then she stood up to it. We eventually brought her back into the middle of the park.”

Buckley is full of stories about her physicality as a midfielder.

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“We played Sunderland against Jill Scott, it was probably Millie’s first year,” he remembers.

”Jill Scott in the past had caused us no end of problems, but after the game in her press conference Jill said ‘I don’t think I’ve played against anybody as physical as that’.

“Millie kicked the proverbial s*** out of her. She was fearless. Even when she mis-timed things she just didn’t care.”

Another story begins: “We used to play men’s teams to see how we’d get on. We were playing a semi-pro team on about 25 quid a week, I remember talking to two or three of the lads who said ‘that girl in the middle of the park is an absolute brute’.”

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Despite that physical presence, Bright is not a leader who shouts.

“The thing she learned quite young was to pass information on. She wasn’t loud, but that tells you everything,” says Buckley.

“She led by example. Having said that, if we were having discussions about things she would comment on issues, which was quite odd for the younger ones, especially if you’re surrounded by senior pros.

“She wasn’t scared to come up with a comment.”

A good support network at home helped.

“That’s probably a big part of them being successful,” concedes Buckley. “Her parents took her everywhere. I remember them all, the parents, the grandparents - lovely people.

“She should be very proud of what she’s done.”

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Come the World Cup final in Sydney on August 20, Millie Bright and her Lionesses could be making the whole county proud, and there to collect the trophy on behalf of a nation will be that young girl from Killamarsh.