Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is celebrating England’s roaring success at the European Championships yesterday (Sunday 31 July) by speaking to two of our own former Lionesses.
Following Germany’s 2-1 defeat in the match, which was watched by a record-breaking 87,192 people at Wembley, we have heard from our Assistant Chief Fire Officer (AFCO) and a well-known firefighter, both of whom have played at an international level prior to their time in the fire service.
Former England international ACFO Michelle Hickmott was previously a left-back for England as well as previously playing for Birmingham City F.C, Fulham F.C, Coventry F.C and Charlton F.C from 2003 to 2011 before undertaking a managerial role with the Birmingham Football Association.
The former Lioness has been harnessing some of her competitive spirit into her work for the Staffordshire service since joining in May and has even helped to organise its five-a-side football team.
But Michelle is not the only service employee to have played at such a high level.
Michelle said: “The service has two former England full-backs in its ranks in myself and Rachel Unitt. She is super talented, she’s such a fantastic player.”
Rachel, who is a firefighter based in Hanley, previously played for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, the New Jersey Wildcats in the US, Birmingham City, Nottingham County and the London Bees.
The left-back made a total of 102 appearances for England as part of the national squad for five major tournaments – three European Championships and two World Cups - and was crowned England’s International Player of the Year in 2004.
Following England’s match on Sunday (31 July), Rachel said: “The victory last night was one that myself and I’m sure football fans across the country will never forget.
“It is an amazing time for women’s football and I hope the win brings more girls into the beautiful game.
“The day before the Lionesses won the competition was also 56 years since the men won the World Cup. At that point, women were banned from playing football in the UK and from competing in many professional sports.
“Moments like this have been made possible by the millions of players, coaches, staff and fans who have invested so much time, effort and passion into the women’s game for so many years.
“This momentous occasion will no doubt inspire so many little girls across the country who can now dream of ‘kicking it like Kirby’, as well as the lads who can ‘bend it like Beckham’.”
Michelle added: “The level of interest and the amount of people watching the match was more than I could ever have imagined when I was playing years ago, it was truly amazing.
“I’m so proud of the girls!”
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