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Published 14 October 2022 4 min read
England Women's Senior Team

From Ecclesall to England: Esme Morgan's grassroots story

Written by:

Esme Morgan

The England and Manchester City defender takes us through her journey from the school playground and boys' football in Sheffield to representing the Lionesses


It’s a cliché I know, but it feels almost as if I was born to play football and for as long as I can remember I have.

But funnily enough, I still can’t actually pinpoint a time or a place when I first started kicking a ball, whether it was in the park or the playground.

My dad likes to tell a story about how I used to throw a strop if we were going to go out for a walk, but then if I was told that we were bringing a football, I’d quickly chirp up a bit and go toddling along after it.

It was school when it really kicked-in though. I always played football on the playground with the boys and even though there weren’t any other girls interested at the time, that just didn’t bother me.

There was an after-school football club which I’d also go to and that was where I met my first ‘proper’ coach, a guy called Martin Windle.

He was an FA-registered coach who used to run the after-school class and he had such passion. He really made it so enjoyable for me and just normalised it for me to play and really facilitated my enjoyment of football through his passion for it himself.
Celebrating a goal with Lauren Hemp for England WU17s against Germany at Telford in 2017
Celebrating a goal with Lauren Hemp for England WU17s against Germany at Telford in 2017
That led on to me joining my first club when I was about seven, which was with a lot of the boys from the playground.

It was a grassroots boys’ team called Ecclesall Rangers and I played with them until I was 15 in the Sheffield & District Sunday League.

I absolutely loved it too, because I never really had any intention to pursue a career in football at the time, I just liked playing with my friends. I loved playing grassroots football, it’s something I’ll always look back on fondly.

Everyone involved with the team and all of the coaches were always really supportive and just normalised it. It was never a thing that I was the only girl playing in the team.

I actually remember getting the odd comment from opposition players or parents about how it was going to be easy for their team ‘because they’ve got a girl playing’ or whatever.

But I never really listened to them and they shut up pretty soon once they saw I was capable of playing alongside the boys.
From Ecclesall to England: Esme made her senior debut for England on Tuesday 11 October 2022
From Ecclesall to England: Esme made her senior debut for England on Tuesday 11 October 2022
It wasn’t until I was 15 that I really went into girls’ football and that came when I saw Manchester City were advertising for open trials for their academy teams. \

Being a City fan my whole life, I just wanted to have a go at it. I managed to get through the trial process and joined City that way, but I’d never explored joining an academy until then as I’d enjoyed playing for my local team so much.

There was still a year where I was playing boys’ football alongside playing for City, so I’d train two or three times a week there and we’d have games from time to time, but then I’d play with the boys’ side at the weekend.

It was a chaotic time and I don’t know how many miles my dad must’ve racked up on his car going back and forth, but he was so supportive and encouraging to me the whole time in just doing what I wanted to do so I’ll be forever grateful for that.

I always had a dream of playing for England and I think that’s something which every kid who plays football does.

So I feel fortunate to have had that opportunity with the development teams as I’ve been coming through, and now for the seniors.

It’s an amazing time to be involved and I’ve loved every minute of it.