73. Millie Bright
At the start of 2017, the position alongside England captain Steph Houghton in England’s centre of defence was well up for grabs, with head coach Mark Sampson not settling on using a back two or a back three.
Whilst Laura Bassett, Casey Stoney and Jo Potter all played their fair share of games at the back, it was 24-year-old Chelsea defender Millie Bright who emerged as the prime candidate to take the spot.
Bright turned out to be the only England player who started every match of England’s Euro 2017, and she’s also made herself a key part of a Chelsea side now much stronger in defence than in 2016.
A physical player strong in the tackle, Bright will only go from strength to strength.
Emma Hayes, Chelsea manager says:
“Millie has come on leaps and bounds in the time she has been at this football club and she continually works hard at her game. She’s had an unbelievable season for club and country, and she’s got the mentality that all top players have, which is why she can keep progressing.”
Rachel Brown-Finnis, former England international says:
“Millie has come into that centre back spot for England and played like she’s been there all the time. That’s such a difficult thing to do for a young player, she looks like she’s never not been alongside Steph Houghton. She has a calm head, she’s composed and I think people perhaps underestimate the job she’s actually done.
“She hasn’t even been at Chelsea that long, she’s adapted to playing a back three for her club and a two for England. If you were trying to build a centre half to sell in shops or to have on the Playstation, Millie Bright would be your ideal centre back from a physicality point of view.”
Jen O’Neill, SheKicks editor says:
“While 2016 saw Chelsea’s versatile defender/midfielder Millie Bright make her senior debut in a 2-0 victory away to Belgium in September and then collect the Vauxhall England Young Player of the Year, in 2017 we witnessed the 24-year-old’s emergence as an established and impressively reliable defender on the international stage.
“On the back of super-steady, Spring Series-winning form, Bright was the only Lioness to start every game at Euro 2017 and regarded by many as the team’s top performer in the Netherlands. A relative late-comer to the England youth programme, under the tutelage of the coaching staff and the players around her (at club and national team level) she has developed at a rapid rate. Combining physical strength, aerial prowess and robust tackling skills with the ability to spray the ball with brilliant accuracy, Millie has an exciting and…yes, you guessed it, ‘Bright’ future.”