Skip to main content
Published 08 June 2023 6 min read
England Women's Senior Team

My grassroots story: Bethany England

Written by:

Bethany England

The Lionesses and Tottenham Hotspur forward looks back at her younger years learning the game in South Yorkshire


I was born in Barnsley and that's where I grew up and lived until I was 18, so pretty much most of my life so far.

And it’ll always be my hometown, it’s where I first found my love for football and where I learned my trade from the very start.

I have a twin sister, Laura, and growing up we used to spend a lot of time at my grandma's where there was a boy who was always playing football on the street.

He was called Josh so we used to join in and play with him and one day, he just asked us if we'd like to join his boys' team. We were about six or seven at the time and the team was the Junior Tykes.

We went along and they let us join them so for the first three or four years I was playing in boys' football.

But when it came to our first ever game for them, it didn’t go so well and we were brought down to earth with a bump. We played against a team called Spy Rangers and we lost quite heavily, something like 21-0.
Bethany, centre, alongside her sister and friend Josh at a Junior Tykes awards event
Bethany, centre, alongside her sister and friend Josh at a Junior Tykes awards event
I remember our mum and dad being worried that we'd probably never want to go back, but we loved it that much we couldn't wait to play again.

Funnily enough, there was a girl on the Spy Rangers team called Meaghan Sergeant, who went on to play for Bristol City in the BWSL, so we used to play against her regularly so she’d probably look back at those days with fondness too.

At school, I was the one who would take the ball in for breaktime and me and Laura were probably better than most of the boys, so they'd all want to be on our team and play with us every day.

We were quite lucky really, because I know a lot of girls get stick for playing boys' football, but all of the boys accepted us playing with them and to be honest, I think they loved it.

So I would recommend to any young girls who enjoy football, that if you can start off in a boys’ team, it will help you because from my experience growing up, I feel like I learned a lot playing against the boys.

Eventually, we got to that age where you're told it's 'too rough for girls' so we had to join an all-girls team then but we'd learnt a lot during those years and we both got scouted to join Sheffield United girls' centre of excellence, where Meaghan was also playing.

But those first few years made me and Laura tougher, as we didn't care about the tackles we were going into. If anything, we were trying to nail the boys as equally as they'd tackle us so it definitely got us used to the speed of the game at that age and when it came to leave and play in girls’ football, it made me better for it.

It was just training sessions on Friday evenings at first, before we started playing against other academies with the Sheffield United girls' team.
Bethany first made her name as a young striker with Doncaster Rovers Belles
Bethany first made her name as a young striker with Doncaster Rovers Belles
After three years with that team, we moved over to play for the Sheffield United academy from when I was about 13 until I was 16.

I can still remember my first coaches too. Keith and his wife Jo were at the centre of excellence and then Ian Sutcliffe took over when we went up the age groups.

My family has always been quite sporty and both me and Laura did football and athletics growing up. Laura played with me all the way up until the end of the Sheffield United academy, but when I chose football and joined Doncaster Belles at 16, she went on to focus on athletics and she did javelin to quite a high level.

I spent five years with Donny Belles and that was where I first experienced adult women’s football.

There were a lot of big players at the club at that time, people like Vicky Exley and Amy Turner who'd all been in and around the game for years.

Millie Bright was also there, she was a year older than me, but I'd played with her previously at Sheffield United and she’s someone I’ve been playing with for over ten years now.

I managed to break into their first team pretty quickly, I was 16 and I was one of the youngest players involved when the WSL started and playing in women's sport at that level was a big step for me and preparation for what was to come.
02 Feb 2022 9:06

Pass Masters: Bethany England and Georgia Stanway

The Lionesses teammates take on our training ground challenge

I was so busy at the time, playing in the BWSL and training, while also finishing my A-Levels and working numerous jobs too.

I remember I used to work in a chippy in Barnsley, doing that on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening. Other jobs included working in a bakery and at M&S so at this stage, it hadn’t really hit home that football might be a full-time career for me.

It was around this time when I was first picked for England too, when I was called into the WU19s squad.

That’s obviously a big honour as well, you're playing for your country and I remember having to say to people at college that I was going away to play for England, that reality hits you when you're still doing A-Levels!

My first international trip was away against the Netherlands, we played them in Amsterdam and it’s a game I’ll never forget…
Celebrating a goal with the WU19s team against Wales in 2012
Celebrating a goal with the WU19s team against Wales in 2012
I remember Mo Marley subbed me on at half time and I scored with my first touch, a header at the back post. The following camp after that, we played some Euro Qualifiers against Wales and I scored two goals there as well so my record at WU19 level was pretty good.

I also played for the WU23s and it was a big change compared to club level and you get to see what it's like on the international stage.

It was all part of my development and learning curve before I joined Chelsea, when it hit home that I didn't need to have another job alongside my football and I could make a living out of it.

I love that football’s now my full-time job and all of the memories and things I’ve learnt along the way have helped me to get where I am.