Rossett sports pitches to be renamed in honour of Rachel Daly
Last updated Aug 24, 2023
Rachel Daly will have the 3G pitches at Rossett named after her
Photos: Lionesses/Rossett Sports Centre

Sports pitches in Harrogate will be named after former pupil and England star Rachel Daly, Rossett School has confirmed.

Headteacher Tim Milburn said the decision was a “no brainer” after Daly was part of the Lionesses team which reached the World Cup Final last weekend.

He told the Stray Ferret:

“I’ve only been here a relatively short time, apart from when I was a pupil, but the association with her has been quite close.

“As everything has ramped up, with winning the Euros and now getting to the World Cup final, to talk about your former pupil like that is incredible.

“The messaging we can give to young people about whatever you dream, you can go on to do, has been phenomenal.”

Mr Milburn said the Football Association had promised to invest in pitches in honour of each Lioness after the team won the European Championships last summer.

However, that had “failed to materialise”, he said, so the school will rename its 3G pitches at Rossett Sports Centre in her honour.

While the school is investigating the potential for funding to be given by the FA or the Department for Culture, Media and Sport towards the renaming, Mr Milburn said the school would proceed regardless.

“it’s a quite straightforward, simple thing for us to do, given that she spent many hours in that area of school, honing her skills.

“It’s a really great visual reminder for our students that you can dream big and go on to achieve it.”

Mr Milburn said he had hoped to get Rachel back to join Rossett School’s 50th anniversary celebrations at the end of September, but she will be playing for her club, Aston Villa, at that time.

However, the school is planning to organise another date when an official opening of the newly-named pitches can be done with Rachel as guest of honour.

Early promise

Among those on the guest list at both events will be Mike Sweetman, the former football coach at Rossett School who first spotted Rachel as a promising young player.

Now retired, has spent the last week being interviewed by news organisations around the country, all keen to hear more about England’s number nine.

He told the Stray Ferret:

“I was head of recruitment at the school in year 7, so I used to go round the primaries to get them to come to Rossett.

“Really, it was just an excuse to secure the best footballers.

“Someone said, ‘there’s this kid, Rachel Daly, she plays for Killinghall Nomads’. I went down there and I stood on the sidelines and I saw this blonde-haired kid up front who was great, but I couldn’t see any girls, so I thought, ‘I’ve missed the game’.

“Someone came up to me afterwards and said, ‘you haven’t missed her, you watched the match’. I said, ‘don’t tell me it was the blonde-haired kid up front!’.”

After starting at Rossett aged 11, Rachel was soon selected for the under 16s – the only girls’ team at the school at the time.

But over the following years, Rossett gained an impressive reputation for its girls’ football, so much so that promising young players chose to go there so they could be part of it.

Mike Sweetman with England international Rachel Daly, who he coached at Rossett School.Mike Sweetman with Rachel Daly

Mr Sweetman was so sure he had a future star on his hands, he rang the FA to bring her to their scouts’ attention while she was still at school.

A representative came to a game where Rossett won 5-0, with Rachel scoring two of the goals. A few weeks later, she was invited to an England training camp.

Yet even he lists her achievements with a sense of wonder.

Rachel has been shortlisted as PFA players’ player of the year, as well as winning the golden boot in the WSL last season, before playing in the World Cup Final.

Mr Sweetman added:

“I felt proud when she was playing in my school team, never mind playing for Villa or England.”

Backing the campaign

While they’re keen to honour Rachel at school by naming the pitches after her, both Mr Milburn and Mr Sweetman believe more should be done for the wider town to recognise her achievements.

The Stray Ferret and Killinghall Nomads have been pressing North Yorkshire Council to do so, such as by naming the newly-opening Harrogate Leisure and Wellness Centre after the town’s Lioness.

A petition in support of the campaign has attracted more than 600 signatures.

Mr Milburn added:

“The town is clamouring for something to have in her honour. The Hydro probably fits that bill – a place that inspires people to get fit and active.”

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