Soccer starlet on target in the Big Apple as she chases American Dream

From the moment Nicola's mum took her and her brother Scott to play football at a club when she was seven years old the game has been central to her life.

Tuesday, 20th December 2016, 10:44 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:01 pm

Growing up she played in the under 10s team for Preston North End Ladies and looking back she remembers how her skills on the pitch topped those of her peers.

“I was one of the better players and I’m not sure if the boys liked that too much,” she said.

Later on Nicola spent six years at Blackburn Rovers and she was on Manchester City’s reserve team for three years. She was able to play against the likes of Everton, Leicester and Newcastle.

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Now, having spent four years playing women’s teams all across America at university level, the 23-year-old is looking to step her game up a gear and try out for national teams.

“I’ve only played at university level so far so its a bit daunting but what this has taught me is to have some self confidence and believe in myself a little.”

It was when she was in her first year of university at Cumbria studying Health Science Exercise and Fitness that Nicola got a call out of the blue asking her is she wanted to move to the US with a football scholarship.

She jumped at the once in a lifetime opportunity and it was not long before she found herself touring the USA with the University of Bridgeport football team.

So far she’s been to New York, Washington, California, Texas, Florida, Philadelphia and Niagara Falls for matches to name but a few.

“I’m quite lucky really to be able to go to these places while I’m here,” she said. “We go and stay over for a weekend and explore the cities. As a team we’ve become really close.

“Last year we were one of four teams to reach the finals and our hotel was right on the beach. Unfortunately we did lose but we broke the university’s record, we had never been to that level before.

“Seattle was my favourite place we’ve visited.”

But it has not been all bright lights and glamour. Nicola trains for two hours every day and has matches two or three times a week - all of which she needs to fit around her studies.

“It’s really pretty hectic,” she said. “Your’re lucky if you have time to get some food in you.

“All our teachers are really supportive though, athletes are really big in America.

“I’ve gained a lot of self confidence in my playing. It took me until my second year to develop and grow. I’ve just needed to believe in myself. Last year I was made captain and its about making sure that all the girls are happy. They often come to me for advice, I’ve kind of developed a motherly role I guess because i’m one of the oldest in the group.”

In her team Nicola is something of a favourite, winning a raft of awards including being named the All – American Player twice.

As far as Nicola is concerned she wants to stay in the US because the opportunities there, compared to the UK, abound.

“I think women’s soccer is more popular than the men’s football here.”

But saying that she’s not putting all her eggs in one basket. While she has trials in America for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWLS) she also has a chance to try out for women’s super league team, Durham Ladies next year.