A lifelong Sunderland fan needs help to make become a star of professional football - but she’s aiming to do it in the black and white of arch rivals Newcastle United.
Passionate Black Cats supporter Emily Neal, who is signed to the Magpies’ women’s team, is currently looking for a sponsor to pay for kit and signing on fees with the Tyneside club.
The daughter of the late Andy Neal, a popular Sunderland City Council boss, Emily has a grand footballing heritage.
Her late grandad John Neal was a professional footballer and went on to manage Chelsea and Middlesbrough football clubs.
Currently a second year sports coaching student at the Sunderland University, born-and-raised on Wearside Emily said: “I love football and I’ve been playing from a young age, from the team my dad managed through to playing for the women’s firsts team at university
“I want to progress and play at the highest level I can, but unfortunately at the minute there’s very little funding available to help me achieve that.
I’m always going to be a Sunderland fan but I just love playing football and I’ve never let anything get in the way of that.Emily Neal
“Newcastle were the only club who approached me to play for them so I decided to go there.
“I’d love to be playing for the team I’ve supported since a child.
“I’m always going to be a Sunderland fan but I just love playing football and I’ve never let anything get in the way of that.”
Emily, who lives in Silksworth, predominantly plays in defence for Newcastle, but for Sunderland University she plays further up the field as a central midfielder.
Her journey and aspirations to progress in football have been boosted by the recent success of the England Women’s squad, who finished third in the world cup in Canada, beating strong favourites Germany in a penalty shootout.
The Lionesses team, which included former Sunderland Ladies’ stars Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Jill Scott, were beaten 1-0 in the semi-final in Japan.
The achievement was the best finish of any England football team since 1966.
“The most amazing thing about England is that a lot of the players came from Sunderland ladies,” added Emily, who travelled to Wembley to see her beloved Black Cats play in last year’s Capital One Cup final against Manchester City.
“The captain Steph Houghton and one of the star players of the tournament, Lucy Bronze, played for Sunderland before their careers took them to Manchester City.
“Jill Scott was also from Sunderland before going to Manchester City and then there’s Carly Telford and Jordan Nobbs too.
“It’s just amazing that the region has developed so many talented female players and it only further increases my passion and ambitions for the sport.
“Hopefully I can find someone who will help me along the way.”
Emily is also hoping to follow in her late father and grandfather’s footsteps by coaching one day.
“My dad and granddad were my role models,” she added.
“I’m hoping to get my FA Level One in coaching soon and hopefully I can develop that into something further.
Anyone interested in sponsoring Emily should email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.