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30 Nov 2023 645

Coaches of Lionesses Legend Lucy Bronze Honoured with 2023 Coaching Chain Award

Coaches’ recognition is a testament to their significant contribution to Lucy Bronze’s illustrious career.

From her very first coach who ignited her passion for the game, to Sarina Wiegman leading her to European glory and a World Cup final, the coaches of Lionesses legend Lucy Bronze have been recognised with the 2023 Coaching Chain award by UK Coaching. 

Bronze’s coaching chain has been honoured for their tremendous impact on her journey to success, and all coaches will receive their accolade at this year’s UK Coaching Awards on Tuesday 5 December. The award signifies and celebrates the importance of progressive person-centred coaching and the continuous dedicated support and time invested in athletes throughout their careers. 

The coaches behind the growth and development of England’s most decorated female footballer of all time are Ray Smith, Doug Thoburn, Anson Dorrance, Chris Welburn, Michael Mulhern, Maureen ‘Mo’ Marley, Matt Beard, Phil Neville and Sarina Wiegman. 

One of the best and most influential full-backs in women’s football, Lucy Bronze was a key member of England’s European Championship success – a first major trophy for an England senior side since 1966 – and inspired countless young girls across the country to play football. 

Bronze’s journey began at Alnwick Town, where her first coach Ray Smith supported her to fall in love with the game. Bronze played with Alnwick Town junior team until she was 12, whilst also captaining her school football team at Duchess Community High School.

Doug Thoburn then crossed paths with Lucy while delivering coaching courses in the local community on behalf of Newcastle United, spotting a very talented individual at Blyth Town girls – then playing as a forward rather than the driving full-back we all know today. Her talent so clear, Doug remembers the day he told Lucy straight: “You will play for England one day.”  

Bronze chose the University of North Carolina to balance education and her passion for football, where she was coached by Anson Dorrance, who was immediately impressed by Bronze’s natural ability and physicality. Bronze would enjoy a successful stint out in America as a freshman defender, going on to become the first British player to win an NCAA cup, amongst other plaudits.

On her return to the UK, Chris Welburn was introduced to Bronze at Leeds Beckett University. Chris remembers Lucy as a “truly outstanding talent with huge potential”, despite her struggles with debilitating knee injuries. Working with Chris, she was offered the chance to play both football and futsal competitions, helping Leeds Beckett win national trophies. 

For much of her early career, Lucy played for Sunderland, and was under the guidance of coach Michael Mulhern from the age of 12 to 16. Mulhern recognised immediately Bronze’s unique talent, playing her as a midfielder to help her influence the game more directly – knowing full well she could play anywhere on the pitch. 

As Bronze’s coach in the England youth squads, Maureen ‘Mo’ Marley, knew better than most Bronze’s capability to play at the highest level, offering the defender a spot on the Everton squad. While predominantly recovering from an injury during her time on Merseyside, Marley’s support on that journey helped Bronze keep a clear focus on her comeback – a process which has been widely credited with helping Bronze develop the physical and mental strength to reach elite level. 

Bronze then swapped blue for red and headed to local rivals Liverpool where she would be coached by Matt Beard. Liverpool became England’s first full-time women’s club for the 2013 season, allowing them to attract players of Bronze’s quality and go on to win the WSL in back-to-back years. Beard showed full faith in Bronze by starting her in every game for Liverpool in 2014, helping her to win the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year. 

After choosing to stick with the nation she was born in, despite real possibilities of her playing for Portugal after being approached by the nation at 16, Bronze linked up with Phil Neville for England, who made her captain for the opening match of the 2018 SheBelieves Cup. Constantly pushing Bronze to show her quality, Neville has previously likened her adaptability to that of German legend Philip Lahm, and reflected:

Thank you so much for considering me worthy of such a prestigious award. To be honest, coaching Lucy and all the Lionesses was a huge honour and pleasure, and Lucy herself is an incredible athlete whose work ethic, talent and mindset is up there with some of the best I have ever worked with. Lucy is a worthy recipient as the UK Coaching Chain recognised athlete.”

Most recently and perhaps most famously, Bronze’s progression has hit new heights under Sarina Wiegman, overseeing unprecedented success and capturing the heart of the nation. Bronze has starred at right-back, as the team won the 2022 European Championships, became Finalissima Champions and came agonisingly close to completing the prestigious treble as England reached the World Cup Final this summer. 

Find out more about this year’s winners and the awards by heading to the UK Coaching Awards page.

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