England Lionesses star Millie Bright on the pitfalls of social media as international looms at Rotherham United

Back to school: Millie Bright gives a coaching clinic to pupils at her former Killamarsh school.
Back to school: Millie Bright gives a coaching clinic to pupils at her former Killamarsh school.
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Social media can be a wonderful tool for supporters to interact with their favourite sports stars and athletes.

It offers a portal that did not exist for fans of previous generations.

Sites such as Twitter and Instagram offer a glimpse into how the other half live and there are countless examples of good deeds gained all because of a shared post or viral video.

But, as with most modern advances in technology and communication, there are also plenty of pitfalls associated.

Footballers are not exempt to copping their fair share of flak but the abuse that women footballers can be subject to was taken to a whole new level recently.

It is a topic that resonates with Millie Bright, the Yorkshire-born Chelsea and England defender.

Bright’s club colleague, Karen Carney, received a clutch of ‘troll’ messages on Instagram after her team’s recent Champions League win over Fiorentina.

The messages contained a number of serious threats to Carney, with the Football Association saying it is “appalled” and “dismayed”.

As someone who sees Carney at close quarters on a daily basis, Bright admits the episode highlights how volatile the online world can be when you are in the sporting spotlight.

“It did affect Karen and she was quite quiet for a few days, but we all supported her at Chelsea,” Millie told The Yorkshire Post.

“It’s not acceptable but we have to put it aside and try to just focus on the football.

“These kind of things are just out there to put you off and you can’t control it.

“It can distract you even by reading it, so I tend to just delete it and focus instead on the task ahead. I’ve had a couple of messages in the past but, as I say, I just delete them.

“I don’t tend to read them and I try to stray away from that sort of stuff.

“It’s just to be ignored because it’s one person’s opinion and most others would override that.

“But, obviously, nobody wants to read anything sent to them like that. They can be very deep and personal. People say they are nobodies, the ones who send them, but it’s still someone real sending those words to you.

“They can take effect when it’s constant, one after the other.”

Bright was speaking at a visit to her old primary school, Killamarsh Junior School, where she gave a talk to pupils there on a range of subjects with social media among the topics discussed.

For Bright, the occasion was not only a pleasant trip down memory lane but also served as a reminder as to how far the women’s game has come.

The inclusion of young girls in a special training session that Bright put on was also not lost on the 25-year-old.

She hopes that her visit, as a fully-fledged international player, can inspire the youngsters to join the next generation of women players.

“I used to have kick-abouts with the lads at break but there wasn’t actually a team for girls when I was here,” said Bright, who cut her competitive teeth at nearby side Killamarsh Dynamos. “It’s always good to come back and get involved out on the field with the kids.

“It’s always weird and brings back lots of memories.

“It’s when I went to Eckington (secondary school) that I kicked on with the school team, playing competitive games. This sort of thing, getting a visit from a professional women’s player, was unheard of when I was young.

“We didn’t really know about women’s football, so it’s nice to show the children that there is a women’s game and that they know where to go if they want to progress.”

Bright’s visit came ahead of England’s match with Sweden which takes place on Sunday, November 11, just 12 miles away from Killamarsh at Rotherham United’s AESSEAL New York Stadium.

The friendly encounter with the Swedes represents the latest assignment for Phil Neville’s Lionesses ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Bright, who is hoping to win her 25th cap, has been pleased with her personal form this term but is determined to keep improving.

“I’ve been pleased with how I’ve been performing, but I always want to improve,” added Bright, sent off in Chelsea’s 6-0 Women’s Champions League win against Fiorentina last night. “I’m always setting myself targets. I need to make sure I’m in the best possible shape for Chelsea and England.”

Tickets for England v Sweden (1.30pm) are priced £10 adults and £1 concessions. See www.thefa.com/tickets