Georgia Stanway was clearly a youth soccer player, even when she was only seven years old, her childhood coach Steve Liddicott said.
On Sunday, Stanway, who recently joined Bayern Munich, is set to play for England in a sold-out Wembley against Germany in the Euro 2022 final, a tournament in which she made a significant impression.
The 23-year-old Cumbrian midfielder’s journey in football began as a child at Furness Rovers.
And Liddicott, who coached her at the club, recalls that it was obvious from an early age that something special was going on when young Stanway shone in the all-boys team.
Furness chairman Liddicott told the PA news agency: “Georgia’s older brother was on one of the teams, (Stanway’s mother) brought Georgia along while he was training, and she used to come over the net when the kids were shooting and collect the ball. ball.
“Eventually her mom said to me, ‘Is it okay if she joins? I said it was all right and she joined us when she was about four years old at the rugby field in Furness, Strawberry Grounds.
“Very quickly it became obvious that she was able to control herself, knew what to do with the ball, had good control of it, could hit it, and she became involved in the boys’ training and eventually played for us.
“There were some cheeky workouts because the guys were trying to prove that they were better than Georgia, and she was the only girl trying to prove that she was better than them. There were some interesting tackles! She never backed down.
“She played with us from the age of six to the under-11s, and then, at that time, it was the threshold for girls playing in a mixed team.
“When she was seven or eight years old, it was very clear that she was going somewhere.”
Stanway subsequently joined Blackburn’s center of excellence at around the age of 13 and was at the club until signing for Manchester City at the age of 16 in the summer of 2015.
There were some cheeky workouts because the guys were trying to prove they were better than Georgia and she was the only girl trying to prove she was better than them.Steve Liddicott
Blackburn manager Gemma Donnelly, who made her senior Stanway debut earlier that year just after she turned 16, says the youngster’s “goal to be the best” was striking.
Donnelly said: “(When Stanway came to Blackburn) she was pretty raw, but it was pretty obvious she had a drive to be the best.
“You could see it in her workout app, her discipline, her commitment — considering you talk a couple of hours each way (traveling from home to a center of excellence), plus a three-hour workout, three times a day. a week.
“We had to start working with the school so that she was released earlier, and she did her homework in the car.
“The minute she got out of the car, she just wanted to make the most of every second with the soccer ball. She was super-competitive, ridiculously stubborn, and wanted to be on top all the time. She was pretty confident, moving forward, shooting. And wherever you put her, she was naturally talented – eight, ten, nine, seven, eleven.
“We had experience in identifying talents, searching for these qualities – diligence, endurance, sportsmanship, understanding of the game. While you could get one or two at a higher level, I think Georgia kind of stood out because she showed off most, if not all of them, at a higher level.”
Stanway made an unforgettable display of her shooting prowess at the Euros with a stunning shot that sealed England’s 2–1 victory over Spain after extra time.
Also on the pitch at the time were teammates Kira Walsh and Ella Thun, others who had spent time with Blackburn as teenagers before moving on to City.
And Donnelly said, “When all three of you are on the field together, I just think, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ It’s amazing that we were able to help these players achieve what they have achieved.
“As for the pride… of everyone who was involved, the coaches who supported these girls, I know that we are all very happy to see this – not only for the girls, but also as coaches, as someone who played a role in their development. .
“Surely this should be your ultimate goal – to help someone play at the highest level, on the world stage? You can’t ask for more than that.”