MILLIE BRIGHT has revealed how she had two part-time jobs as well as playing semi-pro — before hitting the big time with Chelsea.
The 26-year-old defender worked long hours just to make ends meet while at Doncaster Belles.
England star Bright revealed: “I was a fitness instructor at a leisure centre, a horse groom and I had to manage my football on top of that.
“It was hard but I was just had to juggle everything in semi-pro.
“But that’s what happens in women’s football, some players are lucky enough to start with a professional contact, but some have started with nothing, doing two and three jobs, fighting to be professional.”
“So that’s why my proudest moment was signing my first contract for Chelsea, because I never thought that would happen.”
Bright grew up among the rolling hills of Derbyshire where she kept horses in the back garden of her childhood home.
And the player freely admits she is still adjusting to London life despite signing for Chelsea nearly five years ago.
Bright, who now lives in Redhill, Surrey, said: “I’m from Killamarsh in north east Derbyshire and it’s a completely different lifestyle to London.
“We grew up with horses for as long as I can remember and I could ride when I was three.
“Horses were our life rather than a hobby and they always will be but when I got an offer from Chelsea I had to choose football.” Bright was introduced to football by chance aged nine when a friend invited her to watch a training session.
She said: “When I was younger I wasn’t even into football. I was just an active kid who wanted to be busy, I could never sit still.
“One evening my mate lent me a pound to watch her play and the coaches said ‘you may as well join in’.
“The next thing I know, the manager is waving the papers at my parents and I signed from there.”
Fast-forward 17 years and Bright has the World Cup in France under her belt, two Super League titles, two Champions League semi-finals and an FA Cup winner’s medal.
But she believes this season will be the biggest yet.
She said: “It was a privilege to play at Stamford Bridge last Sunday and that’s where we want to be playing our games in future.
“We felt the buzz we had during the World Cup when you walk out and see everyone in the stadium it’s crazy.”
Brighton vs Chelsea
MEGAN CONNOLLY is relishing the “underdogs” tag at Brighton.
The Seagulls narrowly avoided relegation from Super League last season after finishing ninth.
And they face a tough test at home to Champions League semi-finalists Chelsea today.
But midfielder Connolly, 22, said: “It is exciting that we are going into games as underdogs, I love that.
“You just have nothing to lose when you play a team like Chelsea, who are hungry for the title.
“It gives us the chance to test ourselves against one of the best teams in the league.
“You can get a result from anyone if you get out there and play your game.
“It is the desire to win that will ultimately get you the result.”
The Blues beat rivals Tottenham 1-0 in front of 24,564 fans — the second highest WSL crowd ever.
Bright said: “I want to say to Chelsea fans that your support has been amazing, last year you were unbelievable but this year we’re trying to push games even more for you guys. I don’t think the fans understand how important they are so please turn up to games, we want to play at Stamford Bridge and not Kingsmeadow.”
For Bright the perception of female footballers in society has shifted from when she started out. She said: “I struggled in school because I was known as a tomboy.”
“But now I’m older I look back I would never want a young girl just because she plays football to be called a tomboy because she’s not.
“That’s just labelling someone for being good at something and looking back now I wasn’t a tomboy, I was an active girl who wasn’t into make-up.
“It was tough because all my friends were boys, I didn’t get on with girls purely because I was completely different, which is fine but I think that drove me on even more.
“I never relied on people to give me confidence, I’m a strong independent person and all I wanted was to be good at something.”
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Bright cannot wait to face Brighton at the Broadfield Stadium today.
The Seagulls finished six places below Chelsea last term, but Bright warned: “We don’t take any game, nor any opponent for granted so this week has been about making sure we’re sharp going into Sunday’s game.
“We know it’s going to be tough. This year is never going to be easy for any team regardless of the top clubs that are expected to do well.”