Toughness, perseverance and character are all valued commodities in Yorkshire – and Harrogate’s Rachel Daly is blessed with these qualities in abundance, writes Leon Wobschall.
The England Women’s player, preparing for her maiden World Cup finals with the Lionesses, has copped several setbacks in her eventful career to date yet her steadfast desire not to be beaten and constantly to prove herself has shone through.
It was manifested from an early age when she cut her footballing teeth playing as the only female in a boys set-up before first club Killinghall Nomads started a girls team.
It has also been displayed latterly with the Houston Dash star becoming an established part of Phil Neville’s Lionesses’ squad after what she previously described as a ‘difficult journey’ with England prior to his arrival as manager.
Missing out on a place in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 squad was a particularly tough blow.
The fruits of her labours have now arrived by virtue of a cherished place on the plane when the World Cup squad fly out to France shortly – after admitting in one of her first conversations with head coach Neville that she was ‘sick’ of missing out on major tournaments.
And there will be few more driven players in an England jersey across the Channel.
The former Rossett School pupil said: “That (missing the Euro finals) was always going to be tough and it was one of the biggest setbacks I have had of late.
“But those are the things that make you stronger and make these times more special. I am ready and raring to go now.
“Being involved in a World Cup is massive. If this is not the end goal for you and your ultimate dream then I do not think why you do it. It is always in the back of your mind every time you are training and everything you do every day is working towards this. It is really exciting and super-important.
“I always had it as my dream. As a kid I thought I was always a bit more special than the people around me at that point and I knew how hard I would have to work to get to this point and the hard work has paid off now. I am at the place I want to be.
“If you get a winning mentality ingrained that is the most important thing for us. We are all winners and want to win and have got a point to prove.”
Stepping out of her comfort zone and into uncharted territory is something that Daly is clearly not frightened of either.
This much was evident when she successfully made the transition to Lincoln Ladies after Leeds Carnegie pulled out of women’s football and also in moving away from friends and family to continue her footballing education in the United States.
Support from her loved ones has remained unstinting from afar and they are now all sharing in her World Cup adventure.
Daly, the first English woman to be drafted into the National Women’s Soccer League in 2015, added: “It has been massive. My family are all behind me and I think everyone in Harrogate is.
“They are always going to be there no matter where I am. Their backing has been massive.
“I think I am always true to my roots and I have always been the same wherever I have gone. I have never changed wherever I have gone in the world.”
For Daly, the arrival of Neville as Lionesses’ head coach in January 2018 proved a timely one.
It was his wise words that convinced the 27-year-old that her versatility was something to be embraced, with accusations that those who can play in several positions are in danger of being labelled as ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ being disingenuous.
Daly’s revival under Neville, no mean utility player himself in his decorated career with Manchester United, Everton and England, has highlighted that importance.
Daly, comfortable in a forward role and at full-back, said: “It is good for me. I spoke to Phil when he first got here and sort of said that I think that it has been abused in the past in terms of being versatile in that I have never nailed down a position.
“I have always been that player who can be good in all sorts of positions and wanted to settle down.
“But he turned around and said, ‘no, I am going to use your versatility to maximise your whole strengths’ and he uses it really well.
“That has been massive for me.”