Le Tissier leads Young Lionesses to Euro finals

TASS athlete Maya Le Tissier in action (Handout)

England’s Lionesses take on the world this summer but there’s a new breed of rising stars breathing down their necks. We caught up with England Under 17 captain Maya Le Tissier ahead of May’s European Championship finals.

The Le Tissier name is synonymous with some of the most memorable moments in English football’s modern era. But where former Southampton favourite Matt once led Premier League defences a merry dance, Brighton and Hove Albion’s Maya is carving out her own reputation in the WSL Academy ranks.

The name and the game might be the same and both learnt their trade on the Channel Island of Guernsey. But that’s where the connection ends – Maya is no relation to Matt and this summer will see the 17-year-old press ahead with a long overdue Le Tissier rebrand.

The defensive midfielder is set to lead England into action at the Under 17 European Championships in Bulgaria and she revealed: “Confidence is high within the group – as it should be!

“We have had a fantastic qualifying campaign leading up to the finals. We didn’t concede a goal in any of our qualifying games and we scored plenty. We’re very pleased with how’s it gone but now that’s in the past and we will take all of our learning forwards into the finals. “We’ll ensure we are the best prepared team going out there.”

England face old foes Germany in a mouthwatering opener on May 5 before further Group B clashes against Austria and Holland. And Le Tissier admitted that England’s senior Lionesses act as a constant inspiration to a group of players chasing their own success on the international stage.

“Phil Neville and his squad are a massive inspiration to all of us coming through and to girls and boys across the country,” she added. “They are continuing to do a fantastic job in growing the women’s game. They show us what we can achieve and encourage us to set our sights even higher.

“They inspire the next generation. They’re fantastic role models for us and we all look up to them. Around camp we have had a few of them come in and speak to us to share their experiences and it has been great as we can learn so much from them.

“They’ll leave nothing out on the pitch at the World Cup. I’m sure they will go all the way and I can’t wait to watch them do their thing!”

Like Le Tissier, many of Neville’s senior squad has benefitted from TASS support on their way to representing England at the highest level: Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Toni Duggan, Izzy Christiansen and Alex Greenwood have all been part of the Sport England-backed scheme.

However, the nation’s new breed is now even better placed to progress on and off the field. Within the new WSL Academy programme in place, rising stars are encouraged to pursue a dual career approach as part of a groundbreaking partnership between TASS and the Football Association.

“I think the WSL Academy system is really helping to bridge the gap between youth football and senior football,” added Le Tissier. “It’s only the first year of the league so I am sure it will continue to get better and better as time goes on. It will also play a big role in developing the women’s game.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing different opposition from all around the country. It gives us more experience in terms of travelling to games – that kind of thing makes the step up to senior football far smoother as it’s what the first teams do week in, week out.

“Off the field the TASS advice has been invaluable. Accessing specialist physiotherapy and S&C support means we can be as strong off the pitch as we are on it. There’s always someone ready to talk about any niggles or concerns.”

Maya Le Tissier representing the Young Lionesses (Handout)

At 17 Le Tissier has her whole football career ahead of her. And yet the WSL Academy system encourages players to plan for a future outside of the game they love – a practical approach even as the women’s game moves towards a greater level of professionalism.

“Combining your football and studies is very important for those of us in the women’s game,” added Le Tissier. “In football you never know what could happen.

“There’s lots of competition and the reality is that not everyone is going to be a professional footballer. You need to have a Plan B if something doesn’t go the way you expected.

“And you’re never a footballer for all of your life. After your football finishes you need something to do and this is where our studies can come in so handy. “

As a member of Brighton’s WSL Academy squad, a typical day for Le Tissier involves a combination of studies and sport. “We attend college during the day and travel to training in the evening,” explained Le Tissier. “On top of that you need to do extras – other things that will help your development as a footballer.

“If you are truly dedicated then you will need to sacrifice a lot of time to progressing on and off the pitch. But if you have the right mindset then you will go a long way. I’m convinced of that.”

Like her famous namesake, Le Tissier is an inspirational role model on Guernsey and regularly returns to the Bailiwick to run the rule over the island’s rising stars. “The women’s game in Guernsey is growing with so many youngsters playing the sport,” she added.

“Unfortunately, there aren’t many opportunities beyond the age of 16 so you need to move away from the island. But even since I started playing so many more children have taken up the game and that’s great to see.”