Beckett graduate hoping to net Wembley FA cup success
Sophie, who works full-time at Leeds Beckett, will be lining up for Notts County against Chelsea on Saturday 1 August in the showpiece event, having just missed out on Cup glory at the final hurdle on two previous occasions.
“It should be amazing – I’m really looking forward to it,” said Sophie. “I’ve played in the final twice before when I played for Leeds, but we came up against that famous all-conquering Arsenal side who were at their peak.
“It’s the pinnacle of my football career and the first time the women’s final will be at Wembley. Even though we’ll be starting the game as underdogs, we’re full of confidence - it’s been a good cup run and we are having a strong season in the league, scoring plenty of goals in the process.”
The County right-back, who studied Business & Management on a sports scholarship at Leeds Beckett, is expecting a big crowd following the recent success of the England team at the Women’s World Cup in Canada.
“I know a lot of the girls who lined up for England and they’ve done a great job of raising the profile of our sport. By getting to the semi-final they achieved more than most thought possible and they thoroughly deserved it thanks to their team spirit and character.”
Sophie was a key member of the Leeds Beckett women’s football first team during her days at the University and it’s a time she looks back on with fond memories.
“I loved every minute of it. We had a hugely successful team and some of the other girls from back then have also gone on to play the game at the top level. I enjoyed things off the pitch too – I got a lot out of my course.”
John Hall, a senior coach at Leeds Beckett, remembers Sophie’s playing days at the University well and has been impressed by both her progress and that of the women’s game.
“Sophie was and is an outstanding player. To now see her combining her training alongside a full-time job is superb,” said John. “The interest in the game continues to grow: we have 60 to 70 girls playing in our teams every week during the British Universities and Colleges Sport season.
“It’s fantastic to see so many of our former students doing well. England stars Lucy Bronze and Jade Moore were both part of the set-up here, and there are more who now play in the Women’s Super League.”
Proud mum Sue, who also works at Leeds Beckett, is thrilled at the prospect of seeing her daughter at Wembley.
She commented: “We’re proud as a family and we’re all looking forward to it. On the back of the World Cup, it’s nice to see the women’s game getting more recognition, whereas the men’s game takes it for granted.”
Sue is in the perfect position to compare the men’s and women’s games – her son Simon is a professional footballer with League Two side Crawley Town.
“Sophie started playing at a young age and it’s been difficult over the years because you see two children putting in the same effort and commitment, but the rewards are so different,” explained Sue.
“I have great admiration for Sophie, to work full-time alongside playing and training, she should be very proud of herself. It will be great to see her playing at Wembley.”
Sally Nickson, Head of Sport at Leeds Beckett said: “'Outstanding achievements by many of our talented sportsmen and sportswoman both current students and alumni have been well publicised recently, including Tom Bosworth, Gary Ballance and Lucy Bronze. We have also seen recent successes from our staff in helping these individuals and teams achieve their goals, such as Tom's coach Andi Drake. However it is sometimes the individuals who we see nearly every day, that are talented sportspeople outside of work that make us the most proud. Sophie Walton is just one of these people, an integral part of the Notts County side and on her way to Wembley for the Women’s FA Cup Final. Well done Sophie, to you and the rest of your team and good luck!”
You can see Sophie line up for Notts County versus Chelsea in the Women’s FA Cup Final on Saturday 1 August at Wembley Stadium on the BBC. Tickets for the event are available via the Football Association.