Lucy Bronze: How the Best FIFA Women's Player is driven by England success

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This week’s game changers podcast features a fascinating interview with Lucy Bronze, the current FIFA Women’s Best Player of the Year.

Having played for Women’s Super League teams Everton and Liverpool, along with French giants Olympique Lyonnais, Bronze now stars for Manchester City. The right-back is also vice captain for the England national team.

In the interview with Sue Anstiss, Bronze explains how she was first inspired to start playing football because her brother did too. Her family then moved to a new housing estate, where she became neighbours with Manchester United’s Lucy Staniforth.

“Well, I moved slightly south at the age of about 10/11,” Bronze said. "And funny enough, I moved on to a brand new estate, and six houses down from me, our gardens kind of looked on each other, was Lucy Staniforth, who also played as well.

“That was, yeah, that was literally the first ever girl I ever met who also played football, who happened to be pretty good as well. And we joined the same school at the same time. Because we moved to this brand new estate in a new town, where neither of us were from.

“And yeah, we used to kick around, playing football together, every single day.”

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Bronze began playing at the Sunderland Centre of Excellence at 12-years-old, before briefly returning to a local team, and then going back to Sunderland when she was around 14-years-old. She remained at the north-east club while she broke into the England youth set-up, bar a brief spell at the University of North Carolina.

Bronze’s career was very nearly over before it began, however. On the podcast, she delved into the issue of a recurring knee injury while she was a teenager, revealing she had felt a lack of support from England. At 17, Bronze had been told she would be dropped from the squad for the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship as she lay in a hospital bed.

“So they're like, yeah, we're not going to pick you. And I was like, ‘What?’. Like this is three months away. I'm sat in a hospital bed. Not because of any of my wrongdoing, just an unfortunate run of events.

“So then me being me, I went to the same field that I used to go with Lucy Staniforth, every single day with my dog. I used to go running around, kicking footballs every single day to get fit. Obviously, I got fit. I went to these things, but as a knock on effect, it basically turned out that my other knee had been affected, because I hadn't been doing proper rehab, because no one had been looking after me.

“Which again, like you said, if I was a boy, in that position, going in an operation and coming out of it, I probably would have had that support. With a girl at 17 years old, I had zero like no physio, no medical attention.”

Bronze went on to speak about her spell in the United States, which had also nearly threatened her England career.

“So I went to America. I had a great time there. But then improved there. I got better there. England then rang me up again and said, ‘If you're going to be in America, then we're just not going to pick you.’

“So I kind of have this, stuck between a rock and a hard place situation. People always ask me why I didn't ever, why I didn't stay in America. Didn't I like it? I loved it. I played at the best team. The players that I played with, I think about eight of them have won at least one World Cups.

“It was amazing. I was training every day. I was doing the fitness. Just loved every minute of it. I feel like I maybe made the wrong decision, because at 17 you think your world's going to end if England is not going to pick you.

“Whereas actually I should have had the attitude, ‘well, if I'm good enough, they'll come crawling back.’ But I wasn't that strong, for obvious reasons. Because I've never really had that belief from them. So I came back. And funny, well, not funny enough, but that's when my knee injury started, off the back of returning to England.”

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Despite the setbacks, Bronze began to make her name as one of the best players in the world. Soon enough, the best team in the world came calling.

“They were just the best team in the world, in my eyes,” Bronze said of Lyon, who she joined from Manchester City in 2017.

“At City, we had played against them. I mean, I enjoyed my time at City. The first time was brilliant. We won trophies. And then we played against Lyon. And I literally just went, ‘Wow! This team is amazing!’ We got beat in the first leg. The second leg, we went to Lyon, played in their stadium, with these fans. And again, I was just blown away.

“I didn't realize, but at the time, like one of the big shots at Lyon, I didn't know who he was, but he walked up to me at the end of the game, down the tunnel, and kind of was like, ‘I think you're amazing. Like you're such a good player. We absolutely love you.’ And I just kinda just took it as a compliment.

“I thought, ‘Well, like, wow! Thanks.’ I didn't really see myself on this same level as these Lyon players. Turns out, a couple of weeks later, Lyon were knocking on the door saying, ‘Right. Come and play for us.’ And it was an opportunity that I just couldn't turn down, at the time.

“I was playing in the best team in the world. I have this opportunity to win Champions Leagues, and leagues and play with all the best players in the world, who I inspired, like I wanted to be like my entire career.

“You know, Wendie Renard and people like that. And now they want to play with me. So yeah, it was a no-brainer.”

As the podcast came to an end, Bronze was asked if she still had any goals remaining for her career. She revealed she wished to earn an accolade with England.

“I think I'm still driven by the fact that I've not won everything. Always my biggest focus has always been a winner with England. That is something that I've yet to achieve, on a national team, because obviously we have team GB now as well, which is exciting.

“But yeah, my goal, even as a little girl was, you know, I didn't know, didn't really know what the Champions League was when I was younger, but you always know what the World Cup is. I think that's the one that you always hear about. So yeah, I've always wanted to win a World Cup, a Euros, an Olympics – all three would equally be just as good.

“So I think that's still my driving factor. Until the day that my lungs give up on me or my
knees give in on me, I'm going to be striving to win something with the national team, whether I'm the starting player, or I'm playing on the bench or whatever.”

This article was produced in partnership with the game changers podcast, which is supported by Barclays. You can listen to the full episode with Lucy Bronze here

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