WHEN the names of Harrogate’s Rachel Daly and Leah Galton were broadcast during an American selection draft early last year, it proved something of a watershed moment.
It may have created few headlines back home in the UK, but the pair had become the first English women to be picked out of the US college system and earn a professional contract in the National Women’s Soccer League.
In the 18 months since, they have become popular figures at their respective franchises and played alongside the best players in the women’s game.
But both were overlooked by Mark Sampson for the squad at this summer’s European Championships, where England’s gallant run was ended by Holland on Thursday night.
Daly will have counted herself unfortunate at the shock omission when the squad was announced in April.
Galton had reason to rue her luck, too, having been hit by injury when receiving her first call-up for a training camp at the end of 2016.
It’s great that we both represent Harrogate. We just have to keep making all the people back home proud. I would encourage young players to venture out to the StatesLeah Galton
But at 23, the striker knows time is on her side ahead of the World Cup in France in two years time.
“There is massive competition for a call-up or a spot,” Galton told The Yorkshire Post.
“The talent in England is growing every year and the pool of players Mark can pick from is incredible.
“It’s a challenge to get picked as the talent is continuously growing.
“I was very proud and grateful that they did call me up. Unfortunately at that time I had sustained an injury while playing the week before.
“I wasn’t 100 per cent fit. To go to national team camp I would prefer to be ‘150 per cent’ fit.
“It’s a hard team to break into. They have been playing together for a while and have gelled together. If it’s going to happen it will.
“But I don’t think playing in the States is too much of an issue. If we are playing to our potential here they will see it back home.
“If Mark really thinks we will benefit the team and make them better, he wants us for his squad, therefore he would make it happen.”
Galton started playing on the fields of her local side Knaresborough Celtic before her sharp shooting was spotted by the Leeds United Ladies set up.
It was at Leeds that she got her first taste of senior football, but at 18 she took the decision to gain a degree and joined Hofstra University in New York.
By that time, Daly had already moved to the city at rival college St John’s University and it did not take long for the pair to take the area by storm.
Galton won the Colonia Athletic Association (CAA) three years running as she broke her university’s all-time goalscoring record, while Daly, also a former Leeds Ladies player, scored 50 goals to earn copious accolades at St John’s.
Such statistics gave the English pair high esteem at the annual draft as they sought a way back into the professional game – and they were rewarded.
Daly, 25, was selected by Houston Dash, a franchise featuring world player of the year Carly Lloyd, while Galton’s name was announced eight ‘picks’ later as the striker was snapped up by Sky Blue FC.
“It’s great that we both represent Harrogate,” said Galton.
“We just have to keep making all the people back home proud.
“I would encourage young players to venture out to the States, if not just for an incredible challenge but to grow independently and mature into a young adult while playing the sport you love.
“It is known as one of, if not the best, leagues in the world. I definitely believe it’s up there.
“It’s constantly a learning curve and as they say you really do learn something new everyday.”
Such is Galton’s motivation to break into the England team, she has planned to cancel her off-season in America to continue playing and develop her game in the emerging Australian league.
The decision will come at a cost, however, as the she will spend longer away from her parents, who wake up in the early hours to tune into Galton’s matches for Sky Blue.
“It’s hard because I miss my family so much that going means I won’t really get to see them, which breaks my heart more than anything,” added Galton.
“But my dad says, ‘you have got to do what’s best for you. If you want be the best, you have got to work for it’.
“I think playing in the off-season will be great for me. It will keep me fit, keep me doing what I love and hopefully be a part of an amazing new team.”
First, however, Sky Blue still have three more NWSL league matches and hold an outside shot at clinching the title.
Galton has contributed six goals in 29 appearances for the New Jersey side but admitted the step up into the league has been a challenging transition.
She added:“This has been my first full season as a professional player.
“I’m not going to sugar coat it, it has been demanding, on both the body and the mind.”