Eniola Aluko was recently crowned the best young female footballer in England, s
Eniola Aluko was recently crowned the best young female footballer in England, something she admits capped off a fine season of personal achievements...
Eniola is making very rapid progress in the women's game and is currently the rising star, after her Young Player Award win at The FA Women's Football Awards in May. At only 16, Aluko has already represented the England Under-19s on four occasions, scoring on her debut against the Republic of Ireland and earning the player of the match award in the recent friendly against Sweden.
The Birmingham City striker started kicking a football around when she was only four years old with her dad and brother but didn't join a club, Leafield Athletic, until she was 11. Just a year later Marcus Bignot had signed her for Birmingham City and she made her first team debut at just 14. Her performances for the Blues in their first season in the National Division led to her call up to the Under-19s, and she will be hoping to represent her country later in the year in the 2003 European Championships in Germany.
Aluko took time out of England's training camp in Essex this week to talk exclusively to TheFA.com about her fantastic season.
You are currently finishing your GCSE's. How have they gone?
I had my last exam this week. They have gone all right. They are a bit tedious, I feel like I have been doing them for years but I have put all my effort into it so it should be all right!
What was the feeling like when you were announced as the Young Player of the Year?
It was absolutely amazing, the cream on top of the cake. All season Marcus Bignot, my manager, put me into the first team. I didn't really miss a lot of games and I was scoring goals and then I got called up for the England Under-19s. So to win the award was amazing because it just highlighted the whole year. I didn't have a bad point during the season.
You just took part in the Birmingham City kit launch with Matthew Upson and Geoff Horsfield. How was that?
It was good to meet them, to meet the players that you look up to. You see them playing for the Blues and they were really nice, down to earth lads.
What is it like playing for the England Under-19s at only 16 years of age?
Any time playing for England is good, even in friendlies, but the biggest surprise of my year was getting picked for the Under-19s. When I got the letter through the post I thought it was some kind of mistake because first of all I didn't think that I was eligible for that age group. Then to get picked for my debut, which was a European Championship qualifier, it was amazing and I was chuffed. I scored which made it even better.
In your last game for the Under-19s against Sweden you were named player of the match. That is some achievement at just 16.
Yeah, I have to pinch myself sometimes. My mum always tells me to stay grounded and never expect that I am going to get picked, never expect that I am just going to stroll into teams so that is why I work so hard.
The UEFA U19 European Championships in Germany gets underway in July. Are you looking forward to them?
They haven't picked the squad yet but it would be amazing if I get picked. I am on a training camp in Essex this week in preparation for the Championships so hopefully I will do well here and they will pick me.
What are your aims for the 2003-04 season with Birmingham City?
To finish fifth this season was our target. Marcus always said at the beginning of the season that he would love to finish mid-table so with him strengthening the squad and us getting a bit more experience, we will be looking to get fifth or go even better next season. And get to a big cup final as well.
By Ben Rice