From Doncaster Belles to the World Cup for England’s Millie Bright

WHEN it comes to analysis of her own performances, influential England Lioness defender Millie Bright will always be able to rely upon one thing.

Ready for the World Cup: England women's Millie Bright.

Read More

Read More
Rachel Daly’s versatility prized by England Lionesses’ boss Phil Neville

A searingly honest appraisal of her work – good and bad – will soon arrive from her most loyal fan; her proud grandad Arthur.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The girl from Killamarsh, a pit village where South Yorkshire meets North Derbyshire – in an area where mines used to pervade the landscape – would not have it any other way.

England's Millie Bright (right) and Sweden's Caroline Seger battle for the ball at the New York Stadium, Rotherham. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

Having formerly worked as a miner, an industry where calling a spade a shovel and telling people exactly how it is went with the territory of a hard and dangerous occupation where fools were rarely suffered, Bright’s grandfather’s is not about to break the habit of a lifeline now that his granddaughter has made it to her first Women’s World Cup in France next month.

Bright may operate in the often cosseted environment of elite professional sport, but tough love is something she refreshingly values.

It is one key adjunct to the family support team who will follow her every step of the way across the Channel.

Just as they did to the Uefa Women’s Euro 2017 finals in the Netherlands just under two years ago, where a special ‘Millie’ banner at games was part of the entourage as England made it to the semi-finals.

Bright told The Yorkshire Post: “If I tried to tell the family they are not coming, they would kick me for it.

“I want them there and they are probably going to be at every match, to be honest.

“It is a special moment for the family and it is good for them to be part of it and I might get a cheeky goal out there, we will have to wait and see.

“They have been my massive support and my mum and dad go to every single training session and game.

“They have sacrificed a hell of a lot in their lives, so that I am in the position I am in now.

“My family are planning to come to every single game. My mum is coming to every single game and my dad has got a lot of travelling to do. The ones who cannot make it will definitely be watching on TV.

“My grandad is there and has always given me honest feedback if I have had a bad game, too. He tells me the reasons why.

“He is not one of those who tells me I have had a great game when I did not.

“I think that is important whether you are 10 or 25 years old. Honest feedback is everything you want as a player to develop and progress.

“Your mum never wants to offend you and will say: ‘Great game today, well done Mill.’

“As I have got older, she has probably started to learn the game as well and if I have not had a great game, she will be: ‘Are you feeling all right today.’ But my grandad has been the one to sit down and say: ‘Come and have a football chat with me.’

“It is just me and him and it is something I respect him for.

“It improves your mental toughness in being able to take on criticism. To be the best, you have got to and you are not going to have the perfect game every week and, at some point, you are going to make mistakes.

“That is the only way you are going to develop as a player. You have to take feedback on the chin and know they are doing it for the best.”

Respect is also self-evident from Bright when talk turns to the on-pitch influences who have helped shape her career.

Stamford Bridge legend John Terry figures very highly on that particular list alongside former Arsenal, Chelsea and England Women’s star Katie Chapman – with their similarities also extending beyond wearing of the famous all-blue jersey of Chelsea.

Like Terry, Chelsea vice-captain Bright, 25, is regarded as an uncompromising defender who thrives on physicality and the heat of battle with the responsibility of leadership which has been thrust upon her shoulders managing to sit snugly upon them.

Bright, who professed to not being a fan of any particular club in her formative years – despite the best efforts of an uncle who took her to see a few games at Sheffield Wednesday – said: “Growing up, John Terry was someone who I looked up to definitely and when I signed for Chelsea it was even bigger then.

“I liked the way he played and his attitude. Moving to Chelsea, the support he gave to the women’s team was incredible.

“Still even to this day when he is not at the club, he still supports all the players. He was a born winner who would do anything for any of his players and strives to be the best.

“He wants the best for his club and team and it is something I look up to.

“His support to the Chelsea girls when he was there – and even when he was not – was second to none. I am highly grateful for that.

“To be fair, I have never thought about leadership, but it kind of comes naturally. You do start to notice things that players do especially JT and Chapman.

“I see myself as following in their paths a little bit.

“Katie was also someone I looked up at, too.

“I loved playing against her when I played for Arsenal and she played for Donny and we were both scrapping around in the middle of the park and she was always someone who I wanted to be like.

“I was someone who liked to get my foot in and get stuck in and she was a ball-winner and that is what I wanted to be like.”

Had fates turned out differently, Bright could well have pursued a career in equestrianism – she was a talented horse rider as a young girl – and negotiating fences were not the only obstacles she encountered as a child.

Bright suffered a bout of pneumonia when she was just eight days old and spent parts of her early childhood in and out of hospital with several asthmas.

Clearly a fighter and a determined grafter hewn from solid stock, Bright overcame that particular adversity and it should serve her well in her maiden World Cup adventure where possessing a strong mentality to cope with the slings and arrows of tournament fortune is priceless.

Bright, who joined Chelsea from Doncaster Belles in December, 2014, added: “Playing at a World Cup is a dream come true and everything I have worked for.

“Horses were my first love. I used to work as groom and fitness instructor and have always done something I wanted to do and I have never worked in a job I did not enjoy.

“I miss the outside side of it with the horses. But I am so grateful that Chelsea came in for me as I would not be in the position I am in now.”

At Stamford Bridge, a resident banner in the Matthew Harding Stand will forever pay homage to one of Bright’s major footballing influences in Terry. It simply reads: ‘JT, Captain, Leader, Legend.’

If Bright and her team-mates achieve glory in France, their names will be similarly revered across a far wider landscape as they leave a special legacy for the next generation of football-mad youngsters to follow across the country.

Should that occur, her grandfather will be one of the first to nod his head in approval.