Rosa Neary, captain of Sheffield United Ladies, has described playing at Bramall Lane as the “best day” of her life.
Dan O’Hearne’s side hosted two matches at the stadium last season, including December’s FA Cup first round tie against Leicester City Development.
Neary, a lifelong United supporter, said: “I’ve always gone to games with my family and, like any other fan, dreamt of being able to play there one day. To be able to do that, and to be able to lead the team out, was such an honour. It was an amazing experience and I’d probably say it was the best day of my life.”
Neary, a centre-forward, was a key member of the squad which, after being officially partnered with the men’s team, went on to win the East Midlands Premier League title. A graduate of Northumbria University, she was also among five United players to be awarded scholarships in the USA before returning to South Yorkshire.
“It was tough playing football when I was younger because there weren’t any role models for me to follow,” Neary continued. “There was also some prejudice about women being involved, I used to get teased a bit and although it got called ‘banter’ there was that behind it.”
“Things are really changing now,” she added. “We got invited out onto the pitch at the end of the season and it was great walking around, waving to the crowd. I bet there were a few people in there who used to take the mickey thinking ‘look at them now.’ The women’s game is getting much better coverage now and the interest has really grown because we’ve shown we can play too.”
To emphasise her point, Neary revealed how members of Chris Wilder’s squad, including captain Billy Sharp, goalkeeper Simon Moore and fellow defender Ethan Ebanks-Landell, have demonstrated their support for the Ladies’ efforts.
“I’ve done charity and hospital visits with the players and they’ve been brilliant,” Neary continued. “Billy always comes over now when he sees me, either at the club or out and about, to talk and ask how things are going. Coming under the United umbrella has really helped too. We train at the academy, we get much more time to work on things and that’s helped us get the same bond as they showed last season. We always make a point of saying that we wear the United badge on our shirts so we’ve got to go out there and give everything because we’re representing the club.”