Who is the Newcastle United footballer celebrating at Sunderland AFC’s Stadium of Light?

Graduate Emily Neal, 24, attends the Sunderland University graduation ceremony at the Stadium of Light.
Graduate Emily Neal, 24, attends the Sunderland University graduation ceremony at the Stadium of Light.

A female footballer swapped grounds when she graduated on rival territory at the Stadium of Light.

Lifelong Mackem Emily Neal graduated from the University of Sunderland at a ceremony at the home of the Black Cats.

My grandpa was the Chelsea manager in the 80s, so I’ve definitely come from a big footballing family

Emily Neal

The 24-year-old, from Sunderland, who is returning to Newcastle United WFC for the 2017-18 season, is the granddaughter of former Chelsea boss John Neal, and aims to continue her family legacy.

She said: “My grandpa was the Chelsea manager in the 80s, so I’ve definitely come from a big footballing family.

“He is definitely one of the reasons for wanting to do well within football and inspired me to captain the University’s Women’s Football Team – which is definitely the proudest moment of my time at Sunderland.”

Emily said: “From a young age my dad got me into playing football, and he use to coach me and support me. He was the person who motivated me to do well in my football career.”

Sadly Emily’s dad passed away when she was 18, so never got to see her play professionally, or collect her degree in BSc Sports Coaching.

But, Emily explains, it is her dad’s enthusiasm and love for the game - and for her - that has driven her to study hard, and take every opportunity – even if those opportunities haven’t quite led where she expected.

She said: “My dad is definitely who inspired me to go back into education and into coaching football.

“When I got the offer to play for Newcastle, it did sting a bit putting the shirt on as a lifetime Mackem. But I knew the opportunity meant more than the badge on the shirt. I knew I would be doing my dad proud.”