Women and Girls across the country have been inspired by the success of the Lionesses in the last two years, following their Euros glory and World Cup Final heartache. Lincolnshire has been no exception to the hype, with many young players aspiring to be the next national superstar.
Thanks to the Discover My Talent programme and Future Lioness Goalkeeping Centres, one young Lincolnshire goalkeeper in particular is well on her way to realising this dream.
Faith Cooper, from Scunthorpe, first developed her interest in football when her brother played for Scotter United, and she used to go training with him and his team - despite them being 3 years older than her. Inspired to play, she joined Scotter's Under 9's team as a winger. From this, Faith moved to Dale Park Youth Organisation's girls team in Winterton, playing as a striker for a season and a half, scoring 42 goals in total.
Half the way through last season, Faith was given a chance to play in goal, a chance she grabbed with both hands and absolutely loved. Faith now plays in goal for Dale Park every week, and in May earlier this year she attended trials at Lincoln City Academy and Doncaster Rovers Academy, of which she was accepted into both clubs. Faith had a tough decision to make, but she opted to sign Lincoln City.
Shortly after signing for the Imps Academy, Faith's dad received an email from Future Lionesses Talent ID, inviting her to attend a training session at West Riding FA near Leeds.
"I was really nervous, but I did really well on my training session and was called to one side at the end of the day and asked if I wanted to start attending an England Goalkeeper High Performance Centre in Sheffield every Friday, which I was very excited about." says Faith.
Faith was referred via the Discover My Talent recruitment window. Discover My Talent is a programme where coaches and clubs, volunteers, match officials, teachers or anyone else working with young players who see potential, put forward players and recommend them for the England Women's Talent Pathway.
The aim is to ensure The FA supply England teams with the quality, diversity and depth of players to enable England to win another major tournament. In pursuit of this ambition, they're leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding future talent across England.
Faith now trains at the England Goalkeeper High Performance Centre in Sheffield every Friday, along with 11 other goalkeepers. from the local area.
"The training facilities are the best. and have excellent equipment. The coaches are brilliant! Each week, we have about a 30 minutes classroom session which explains the training we are doing that night or what topic we are focusing on that month, before we head over to the 3G pitch. The high performance training is to give us the best chance of success and prepare us for when we get to under 17’s, so that we have the opportunity to go and be part of the England under 17’s and under 19’s."
Faith was recently invited to St. George's Park for the day, along with 102 other budding goalkeepers aged between 10 and 16, ahead of the fixtures in their UEFA Women’s Nations League campaign, the England women’s senior team hosted the country’s next generation of female goalkeepers. As well as watching the England squad train, the girls were given a taste of what it’s like to be a Lioness as they took part in their own training sessions on the same pitches used by the England teams.
The aspiring goalkeepers also had the chance to speak with their idols, as they were joined by the four senior Lioness goalkeepers – Mary Earps, Hannah Hampton, Khiara Keating and Ellie Roebuck – for a meet and greet and Q&A session.
"The experience was amazing! We got to watch the England team train in the morning, and then got to get pictures and meet them after their session. We also got a tour of St. George’s Park, and then after dinner we had our own training session with the England coaches. At the end of the day, we was able to sit down with the Goalkeepers and do a question and answer with them.
I received an England Goalkeeper shirt, with a few other bits, and got it signed by the Goalkeepers. It was a great experience that I will never forget."
Faith hopes she can continue to perform well with her training and matches every week, and one day aspires to play in the Women's Super League as well as representing her country.
"I do think I’m quite lucky to be given these amazing chances, but it is hard work too. I train 5 times a week and have games at weekends, but that is the only way I can improve. Its happened so quick! My first game in goal was only in February or March this year. I have some amazing coaches who push me and give me great advice".
Jamie Annerson, The FA’s women's goalkeeping pathway lead, said: “The Future Lioness Goalkeeping Centres are a hugely important part of our talent pathway to show to every young girl that if they have a dream to play in goal professionally, they have a system in place to support them.
“Through their achievements in successive tournaments, the Lionesses have inspired a whole generation to play football, and that’s certainly being reflected in the demand for our centres from girls wanting to play as goalkeepers.”
England Women's Goalkeeper, Mary Earps, said when speaking to England Football: “Goalkeeping isn’t always a position that’s focused on so to have the opportunity to bring everyone together – us the current Lionesses goalkeepers with the next generation – is incredibly special.
“I hope the girls made some memories that they’ll take with them for life. It’s hugely important the next generation has role models and can see other women and goalkeepers living out their dreams. It shows them that the pathway is there and that they too can go on to be professional and achieve their dreams.”
The next Discover My Talent referral window is open throughout January. To find out more about this, click here.
To find out more about the Women’s High Performance Centres, visit the England Football Learning website.
To find out more about playing opportunities in Lincolnshire, click here.
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