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Published 31 March 2023 4 min read
England Women's Senior Team

Millie Bright's Grassroots Story

Written by:

Millie Bright

From playing in the garden to reaching the biggest stage with the Lionesses, Chelsea defender Millie Bright recounts her grassroots story...


My earliest football memories would be playing in the garden, breaking lots of plant pots, driving my neighbours insane and them popping my balls because they hated me playing.  

But in terms of club football, it would be joining Killamarsh Dynamos at the age of nine, so I was a bit later than the other girls. They were my local team at the bottom of my road and I had no idea that I even wanted to play football really and I would go on to enjoy it as much as I did. 

It turned out I am half decent at it!  

I was bored and my friend played before me so I got involved from there and I loved every single minute and my mum couldn’t get me away from the pitch. 

My mum was shocked that I was going to play football because we were big on horses so that was my first passion. My sisters and I have always ridden since we were little and were always at competitions every week.  

As I got older, I got into working with horses as well, so I did both football and horses. My whole weekend was filled with horses and football and my poor mum and dad would get pulled from pillar to post. I remember being extremely busy as a kid, but I wouldn’t change it and I loved every single minute. 

With me being extra competitive, I could never be bad at anything, and it meant that I really pushed myself. I loved every minute of football and feeling needed and being a part of my Killamarsh Dynamos team. 

I got scouted by Sheffield United around the age of 12 and that was the point where it went to another level, as we were doing diaries around our food and we were starting to get involved in the gym.  

You’d get fined if you were late and it was a more professional environment and better facilities. When I was at Dynamos, it was a pitch anyone could walk on whereas Sheffield United had indoor and outdoor pitches and it was a real eye-opener into what football could be because growing up you didn’t know anything about it. 

I stayed there until I was 16 and then I got scouted for Doncaster Belles’ first team, which was a huge jump. 

Believe it or not, I was the smallest player in every team I played in because I didn’t properly grow until I was 18 or 19 and I was tiny so going to Doncaster, I was really small compared to the other players in the first team. 

It was a big challenge for me and I was left wondering ‘do you want this?’. You go through that process of asking yourself if this is right for you. It was semi-pro at the time so I was training twice a week and then had a game at the weekend. 
Bright signed for Chelsea from Doncaster Rovers Belles in December 2014
Bright signed for Chelsea from Doncaster Rovers Belles in December 2014
I’d been there a year and I went out on loan to Leeds United and I had hardly played a single minute and that was a key point in whether a player is going to make it or it breaks you. Have you got the confidence? Do you feel valued? Do you think you are good enough? 

I played every single game at Leeds United, I think I was top goalscorer because I’d played up front until that point before then moving back to midfield when I went back to Donny, and then I got scouted for the England U19 team and it took off from there. Me and my family were left wondering ‘what is happening? Where has this all come from?’ 

I was always committed to whatever I did, whether it was semi-professional or professional football or anything else in life. I would always commit fully to things. So when England came on the scene, you have to step it up again and use all of the resources around you to improve and your family sacrifices a lot as well – for example my dad took me to every training session because he didn’t want me driving on the motorways and driving all that way on my own! 

With the girls these days, they are very fortunate because they go into a full-time professional contract straight away and their families don’t have to take that sacrifice on as well in those early years. But I don’t regret any of it because it has left me in good stead when it came to the values that I have now. It’s important to always remember where you have come from and what you have had to go through to get to where you are now. 

Even when I went back to Doncaster and was then playing every game, I still didn’t know at that point I would go on to become a professional because the game was not really there and there wasn’t the opportunity.  

You’re still in that limbo mode where it’s a case of ‘is this a hobby or is it a job?’ 

I had two jobs at the time, where I was working with the horses and I was a fitness instructor at the leisure centre, and would then play football on top of that. So it was hard to know what was my potential career and my hobby because I loved my horses and football equally.
Bright in conversation with Beth Mead during England's FIFA Women's World Cup Qualifier against North Macedonia
Bright in conversation with Beth Mead during England's FIFA Women's World Cup Qualifier against North Macedonia
Then Chelsea came in but I still said no the first time! Doncaster had just been relegated to WSL 2 and I knew the step up to one of the biggest clubs in the world would be too much for me. I felt like I needed to be loyal to Doncaster and didn’t want people to judge me for leaving straight after a relegation. So I saw it as a strength to stay, be successful in WSL 2 and then go from there. 

People were calling me an idiot for not making the move to Chelsea and saying it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but I would’ve had to move away from home as well and 
it was just too big a deal for me at the time. This was in early 2014.  

I loved that next season, I felt the best I had ever felt, I became really clear about who I was as a person and that is the biggest thing looking back. You have to understand who you are as a person, what you are about and what your values are as a person.  

When you’re young, people expect you to know what you want and who you are at such a young age but it takes time and experience to develop those sorts of things. So staying that season was the best decision I ever made and by the following summer I had progressed to the U23s with England. 

I knew the risk that a big team might never come back in for me and it would be something I might have to live with but after everything Doncaster had done for me, it was the right thing and then Chelsea came in again and the women’s game was in an even better place by then.  

So I signed my first professional contract in 2015 in a heartbeat and I knew I was ready for it.  

To look at where football is now, I’m so grateful to be in my generation because it means I can really appreciate what has come before compared to what it is now, and I’ve never looked back. 

The horses will have to wait until I’m finished with football!