There will be no horsing around when England set about lifting a first Women’s World Cup in France.
But Millie Bright could well have been in the paddock rather than Phil Neville’s World Cup squad this summer had the 25-year-old pursued her first love.
The centre-back has been included after a fine season at Chelsea and will now have the chance to make a major impression on the world stage.
It marks another chapter in a journey that started on the back of a horse in the Derbyshire town of Killamarsh.
Bright explained: “I was probably on a horse before the age of three. From a very young age I could ride on my own, work, trot, you name it. We had all the confidence in the world.
“Obviously back then you don’t have great balance so there were lots of falls but I just got back up and went again. I loved doing it so it didn’t matter if I picked up a few bruises along the way.
“I don’t actually think I started kicking a ball until I was six or seven. Horses were my first love so I was always occupied with that.
“Even up until about ten I wasn’t that good. I think I just had loads of energy. I just loved running around.”
Everything changed for Bright when she joined local side Killamarsh Dynamos after some gentle persuasion from her best friend.
“We were out playing and she was like ‘I’ve got to go now I’ve got training. You may as well come because it’s only £1’. So off I went,” Bright remembers.
“The next thing you know her dad, my first coach, is waving papers at my mum and dad trying to get me to sign. From there I joined Sheffield’s academy and it’s just been about progression ever since.
“I stayed there until I was 16 and that’s when it all started getting more serious. They were getting us in the gym and teaching us all about nutrition.”
Hometown Glory on Dream Team
We sent Alex Scott to interview Chelsea and England defender Millie Bright as part of her Hometown Glory series, which can be seen in full at the top of the article. Keep an eye out for future episodes on Dream Team’s site and social channels…
Bright left Sheffield to join Doncaster Belles in 2009, although she credits a loan move to Leeds with kick-starting her career.
“I needed to just go and enjoy the game to develop. It was the best decision I could have made. I played every game and scored loads of goals.
“That’s when I got picked up by England Under-19s. It was all a bit of a whirlwind because I had just gone away to pick up experience and the next thing I know I’m getting an England call up.
“From there it was on to the Under-23s, then the England Next Gen squad and now obviously the seniors.”
Bright, who joined Chelsea from Doncaster in 2015, will head to France as a two-time FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Cup winner.
But that doesn’t stop her from getting excited at the prospect of coming face to face with some of women’s football’s biggest stars.
“It’s huge. I still can’t believe I’m actually going to a World Cup. It’s come around so quickly.
“I keep pinching myself every day. I just want girls to follow and see that they can do it, no matter what background they come from or what school they’re at. The opportunities are there.
“A World Cup is the chance to test yourself against the best. Club football is one thing but international is just a whole new level. I can’t wait to come up against the likes of Alex Morgan.”
England get their World Cup campaign underway against Scotland in Nice. For Bright it will be a chance to do battle with familiar foe.
“I know Erin Cuthbert from Chelsea from Chelsea, so it will be a good experience. It’ll be a fiery game.”
England then take on Argentina in Le Havre before travelling back to Nice for a final group game with Japan.
Bright is in no doubt about what the aim is, explaining: “The dream is to come back with a medal to show everyone. To have won the World Cup for the country would be a big moment.”
Hopefully that passage to World Cup glory is less bumpy than Bright’s early days on horseback.