Published 22 June 2022 4 min read
England Women's Senior Team

Rachel Daly set for emotional return to Elland Road

Written by:

Nicholas Veevers

Yorkshire girl set for her 50th England cap on the home pitch of her family's beloved Leeds United
England’s Rachel Daly is preparing for an emotional homecoming at Elland Road on Friday, when the Netherlands are visitors for the latest pre-EURO 2022 warm-up game.

Born in nearby Harrogate, Daly grew up in a family of stanch Leeds United supporters and was a regular at the stadium for games as a fan while also representing the club’s women’s team.

And she now returns to Elland Road in a different capacity, having never set foot on the pitch in the famous venue for a game before, in what could be her 50th appearance for the Lionesses.

“It’s a club that has held such a special place in my heart and my family’s heart and I’ve got so many memories of being at Leeds,” said Daly, in an interview with the official matchday programme.

“It’ll be really exciting to go back as I was there my whole youth career - I started there when I was about eight years old, right through until the senior level.
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“I was at a local team in Harrogate and you get to that level when you go to a proper organisation and a good club. I don’t think I’d be anywhere near the player I am today if I didn’t have that youth experience.

“I’ve actually never played there, which is crazy because I’ve played in so many different grounds with England, but never Elland Road.

“I’ve been a lifelong, diehard supporter of whole family has. As far as I can remember, I’ve been going there since I was a kid. It’s such a great environment being there as a fan, so being able to play will be even better for me.”

There’s an added emotion for Daly too, following the passing of her father Martyn last year. A massive influence on her footballing career, the 30 year old still carries his memory into every game she plays.

And that will take on even more prominence should she feature at Elland Road on Friday evening.

“He was the biggest Leeds fan I’ve ever met in my life,” she revealed. "It will be so awful to not have him there because I think it would have been one of his proudest moments.
Rachel Daly dedicates a shirt for her dad, Martyn, following England's game with North Macedonia in Southampton last year
Rachel Daly dedicates a shirt for her dad, Martyn, following England's game with North Macedonia in Southampton last year
“I have a different perspective towards football and life now. Football has always been the be-all-and-end-all for me, and it still is, but now I play for a different purpose as well.

“When I get on the pitch, it’s not just about me performing, it’s me performing to make my dad even more proud than he already was.

“I think I carry that weight with me, but it’s a nice weight to have because it’s every game I want to do better and better. I know I’m making him proud up there.

“But in a way, that’s what will make it even more special, having the rest of my family there knowing how big fans we are.”

You can read the full interview with Rachel in the match programme, which will be available at Elland Road and for pre-order.