From Barrow to Bayern: Georgia Stanway tells her grassroots football story
The Lionesses midfielder takes us through her recollections of playing as a girl and growing up through grassroots football in Cumbria to becoming one of the game's biggest talents
FIND A GIRLS' CLUB NEAR YOU AND PLAY
I had to join in or I would get the ball kicked at me, but it was something that I fell in love with straight away.
I remember going to JP’s under-7s training. I was on the sidelines with all the parents and one day, they let me join in. I don't think they realised what I was like and that I was going to kick a few shins and cause a few problems.
From that day, they let me join in and I never really looked back. I ended up playing for the same team, Furness Rovers Boys, from when I was three or four years old up until I was 12 or 13.
I'm still in touch with quite a lot of the lads that played there. They are very supportive and it was a really nice team and community to be a part of.
We spent a lot of our time at the local rugby club and at a place called Holker Old Boys. That was where all my brothers played and it was also a social thing. On a Saturday, you would go, watch the first team play, there'd be a barbecue, and everybody would be in the bar.
We lived in a house at one point that backed onto a local rugby club so I could hop over my fence and I had as much grass as I wanted. For me, that was massive. I used to do sessions and bounce the ball off the wall until my mum told me I wasn't allowed anymore.
Those are little things that you remember and take for granted at the time, but then you look back and realise they were the things that you needed.
When I first started playing for Furness Rovers Boys, I reckon I was about three or four years old and it wasn't until I was about 12 that I played for my first girls' football team, Dalton Girls. There weren't many teams, so it wasn't something you could do on a weekly basis, it was more like every so often.
At the age of 12 or 13, girls and boys were no longer allowed to play with each other. I took a year out of football, and participated in every other sport I could. But I just knew that my love was for football so I pestered my parents to take me down to the nearest centre of excellence, which was Blackburn Rovers. It was two hours there, two hours back, three times a week, so it was a massive commitment.
Once my parents were on board, that's when I knew that this was going to be my life. And me doing what I am doing now, is was my way of giving back to them for everything they've done for me for me to get to this situation.
A day in the life with Georgia Stanway
Get a glimpse into the life of the Lionesses midfielder as she trains at St. George's Park
I was part of their set-up for three to four years, which is a massive commitment, considering both my parents worked full-time. They were getting out of work as quickly as they could to take me down the M6 motorway and even things like fuel costs, because it's not cheap.
That's kind of how I ended up being who I am now. I’m forever grateful for what they’ve done. Every single time I got out of the car, whether it was at training or at home, I made sure I said thank you. It is those little things you should do for your parents to show them the love.
At 16 years old, after I took my last GCSE, I moved and signed for Manchester City. I started a completely new life in Manchester with host parents, a new school, everything changed and I've never really looked back since.
Moving to Manchester was easy to be honest. I was doing something that I absolutely loved, something that I’d given up my life to do. It also made my parents' life so much easier. They got their lives back and their freedom, they were less stressed and had a little bit more money in their pocket from all the petrol!
So it was a two-way thing and I was living my dream. I was doing what I wanted to do every single day of my life and at the same time, they were getting their life back but were also able to share such highs with me.
My town, Barrow-in-Furness, was so, so supportive. So many different companies jumped on board. To this day, I am sponsored by a car company which provided me with transport, driving lessons, and a car to get from A to B.
Local gyms got on board, making sure that I had free access to their equipment and every now and again, in the paper, there were also little grants where businesses would come forward and wanted to back someone based on their individual achievement that month.
Even at the EUROs last summer, the number of messages my mum was receiving – her phone has never been so busy in her life! Even two weeks after she was still getting messages and that is something that she’s never experienced before, coming from such a small town.
My schools were also super supportive. I went to Victoria Junior School, which is now called Victoria Academy and was where my mum worked. Then I went to Dowdales School from year seven to 11.
They recognised that me in school PE wasn't a necessity. They allowed me to do one-to-one classroom sessions because they knew I was still getting my exercise elsewhere.
I played football at school and participated in every sport growing up. I'm from a very sporty family so it was a given that that would happen.
I was very good during school and got all my grades. My mum's very proud of the fact that both me and my brother were deputy head girl and boy at school. I think she hangs her hat on that more than me winning the EUROs gold medal!