Rachel & Jess photoshoot

When the Lionesses became European Champions in 2022, following an extra-time success over Germany, it was obvious that their run to the final had captured the imagination of the public. A crowd of nearly 90,000 were inside Wembley to see Chloe Kelly net the winner in extra-time against Germany and millions more were tuned in to watch the drama unfold on the television.

Since that success, attendances have been on the rise across the women’s pyramid with WSL teams playing in front of thousands of fans at iconic stadiums and closer to home, the move to Abbey Lawn in Bourne has provided Peterborough United Women with a base to call their own and the club have attracted huge crowds, helping to inspire the next generations with youngsters revelling in the opportunity to watch their heroes.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, which takes place today (Wednesday), one of the club’s longest-serving players, Jess Driscoll, has spoken of her pride at being an inspiration to others and believes the set-up at the club, with the introduction of an Elite Training Centre, is providing the perfect for budding young girls to find a route into the game.

“We are in a good place as a football club. Bobby Copping (Women’s General Manager) has made a vision become a reality and the set-up of the ETC is absolutely brilliant. I think that pathway is crucial, for the younger girls, they can see the future in front of them really clearly. For us, in the first team, it is important to continue to be an inspiration for those coming through and it is up to us to make sure that we make ourselves available, give them advice, and alongside the coaches, help them as much as we can.

“In my career, I have done a bit of coaching and what I am seeing now is a lot more girls participating in football and in sport in general. There are more girls football teams within the area and that is great because we all have stories of how difficult it was when we were younger in terms of finding clubs to play for,” Driscoll said.

It is a similar story for the one of the newbies in the Posh Women’s squad. Rachel Lawrence has only been at the club for a month, but is loving every minute, hailing the professionalism of the set-up and the welcome that she has received from her team-mates.

Lawrence believes days like the International Women’s Day is a great way of celebrating achievements but also reflecting on how much progress has been made, and not just within the sport she loves.

“I think these days are really important because sometimes you have to appreciate how much progress has been made. When I first started, I was the only girl within my friendship group that played football. It was different to be a female footballer when I was younger, I think it is a lot more normal now. There are so many opportunities to get involved. I had role models when I was starting out, but now there are so many visible ones.

“The success of the Lionesses in the European Championships was huge. I think it inspired everybody whether they were in the game or not. I think it inspired me because of the way it inspired other people. I am lucky that I get to play football, I want to use that to help other people.

“I can see the impact the Lionesses have had on young girls in this country and I want to make an impact too and I feel I can do that. We are fortunate that we get to play in front of really good crowds in Bourne, it is wonderful to see so many people of all ages coming to watch. After the game, we get to meet some of the young girls who look up to us, I love meeting them and passing on as much advice as I can.

“I have really enjoyed my time with the club since I have joined. It is a really nice group of girls, it is a professional set-up, I am having fun and feeling confident and we have enjoyed some really good results. Long may that continue,” Lawrence added.

For Driscoll, her season is gathering real momentum. She was nominated for the club’s Goal of the Month in February following a stunning late winner in the FAWNL and she is confident that the team can achieve the objectives that were set at the start of the campaign.

“I want to better myself, I think the performances in and out of training, on and off the pitch is really big for me and I feel that is helping when it comes to match days. I am really enjoying it at the minute. I didn’t start the season well, but I feel I am kicking on. I will continue to do what I am doing. I think this team is going from strength to strength. We set ourselves a target at the start of the season and hopefully we can achieve that and next season we can try and go even further,” Driscoll concluded.