Millie Bright has enjoyed a strong few seasons in the WSL, establishing herself as a regular in the England setup. With her seat on the plane to France secured for her first involvement in a World Cup, we sat down with the Chelsea defender to talk in depth about England and the World Cup, as well as what drives her as a player.

Millie, to start with, congrats on getting into the England side. What goes through your head when you hear those words?

I honestly don’t think it will sink in until I get there. Especially as it’s my first World Cup. Obviously everyone's journey is different and we all have different ambitions and beliefs as kids as to whether we’re actually going to be able to play in a World Cup and whether it can be a dream that can come true. For me and for my family, it’s very surreal. I just can’t wait to get out there now and to get started.

Going into your first World Cup – can you tell us about getting the nod, what went through your head, and who did you first call?

So we all got an email – that’s how we decided as a squad that it was going to be done. We got that email a day before the announcement started going out across the media. Even though I knew by then I was in the squad, I was still waiting for that video to land that said I was in the squad. We didn’t know anything about how the squad was going to be announced, we were all so excited for it. We saw Steph’s and then it was a proper “wow” moment. From then we were all wondering who was going to do each of our announcements. It was all so crazy. I knew I was in the squad but even in that moment I still wanted to see my video to know I was definitely in that squad. It’s such a dream and emotions are crazy. It’s a proud moment and I don’t think you can put into words what it means. I don’t think people see the tough times it takes and the sacrifices you have to make as a professional player so it’s a real proud moment for yourself and for your family because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.


Can you tell us just what it takes and the sacrifices you have to make to get to the level you have?

You have to take a risk in life and you never know whether it’s going to take off or not. I had to take a risk in quitting two jobs I was working at the same time while playing semi-pro up at Doncaster. I had to stop those two jobs and move down to London, away from my family when the opportunity with Chelsea came my way. You ask yourself, one: is being away from family going to work; two: am I going to be successful at Chelsea and three: am I going to be good enough? Those are all things I asked myself and I know a lot of players have been on that same journey, it’s not easy. At the start you don’t earn a great deal so you have to work other jobs if you want to play football. When I was at Doncaster, I couldn’t solely do football. I had to work otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to live.

But it’s all the other things too. If you’ve got weddings in the family, birthdays, events with close friends, those are all the things you miss and those in themselves are lifetime memories that you lose or alternatively don’t get to create. So you miss out on a lot of things that happen with people who you love and are close to. If you have a game, it’s not like you can miss it, it’s your job. So you have to sacrifice everything. Getting a call up to a World Cup makes all that worth it though. I make the most of the time I get with my family as I know it’s so precious. They respect my decision and things like a call up like this makes it worth while for everyone. 

What are your earliest World Cup memories? What tournament was the first you can remember?

Obviously watching the men’s tournaments has always been special but it was the women’s one in 2015 that really struck me. The amount of pride and passion that the girls showed, it cemented it all in my head. At that point I said to myself “I’m going to make sure I get to a World Cup”. It’s always been a dream for any kid that’s into football and I know everyone says it but it really will be a dream come true to play in a World Cup and play for England. That moment in 2015 though, really was a turning point where I set it in my sights and said to myself that I’m going to go out there and achieve it. While I was determined, I still never thought it would happen. 

The World Cup in Canada was huge. So many people watched it and it showed how much support comes out for the tournament. Four years on, where do you find yourself as a person?

For me, I’ve played in one major tournament for England since then which was the Euros. Back in 2015, I think I was in the under-23s England squad. It wasn’t until 2016 when I made my debut for the senior side so I’d say it’s been a rollercoaster since the last World Cup with a lot of positive things happening. To look back now, it’s not that long ago and I don’t feel like I’ve been involved with England all that long but I’ve made such huge steps individually and collectively with both club and country. I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on but I know that there’s so much more to come.


Now you’re in the squad, do you move on from the excitement pretty quickly and start to get serious? Does the buzz stick with you?

The buzz will never go for me. My mentality has always been focused around the mindset that you have to earn everything. So even if you get told that you’re going to play, I take that with a pinch of salt and respect all the comments but for me, I have to earn my place. I think it’s right to have that mentality and know all the other girls in the squad do. The buzz will always be there and so is the serious, focused mindset. That’s what drives me to be better each day. Not just for myself but the team as well. The way I see it, if I don’t play well then I’m letting down my teammates.  

It feels like such a fantastic swell about the women’s game at the moment. Do you feel like things have stepped up when it comes to the profile of the sport?

Yeah massively. I think the public can see that as well now. Before, the players would notice little changes across both club and country. You notice the changes that have happened over the years behind the scenes but now it’s a little more visible to the public and they can see it for themselves. The amount of backing we’re getting, the more fans coming to the games, sell out crowds at England matches and even at club level, with Chelsea, the numbers have gone through the roof. I think we’re getting more coverage on TV than we ever have too. I think that has all stemmed from that last World Cup. The girls made such unbelievable progress which, if I’m honest, shocked the people watching and it got the public behind us. That for me, is what has pushed it higher and higher. Everyone getting a little more involved helps and we’re now at the stage where we’re pushing the boundaries and that’s what we want to see.

While we’re all so excited about the prospect of the World Cup, would you agree that we don’t get carried away by the hype and instead keep building after the tournament?

It’s a journey really and a journey that will never end. After us, there’s the next generation. You always have to leave the shirt in a better place and for us playing right now, we have to leave a legacy for the girls that are going to come through. It’s not just about our generation but it’s about building for the next generation and the generation after that. It’s the same for both club and country and it’s massively important that we build on both. Without the clubs being successful and growing, you don’t get the players coming through for England. Both work hand in hand and it’s important to make sure the younger girls are getting everything they need to push boundaries at their level. I don’t think we can let the flame burn out after the World Cup, women’s football has to keep growing and we want it to get to the level it should be and more importantly, it deserves to be.


Going from the summer of 2018 into 19, do you feel like you can have that galvanising feeling like the men’s team did?

I think the big tournaments always have more meaning and more significance than people may realise at the start. We’re not just going there with the aim of winning it but we’re going there to do the country proud, our families proud and do ourselves proud. We’re going there to make a difference to the game, and women’s sport as a whole. If we go there and do well, it will change the game massively and as a player to be a part of that would be incredible. To know that you’ve been a player who has helped change women’s football, that’s what we’re here for. It’s what we want. We’re all role models for the younger players and to be known as someone who has helped change the game would be unbelievable. Just to have played a small part in that movement would be a dream. 

How much would you love to flick the tv on out there and see scenes of pints flying from something you’re involved in?

[laughs] I’d love that, that’s what we want to see. Definitely.

You’ve achieved so much at such a young age. What are the characteristics you feel you have that have that have helped you do so well?

My determination definitely. For me, the more people who have told me I’m not going to do it have been the driving forces that have kept me fighting. I’ve fed off those negative comments and those negative vibes to get me where I am. I’m stubborn. That’s probably one of my best traits especially in a sport so full of negative comments. Social media as an example is terrible for it but I’m good at brushing that off. Anyone who tells me I’m not going to do something, I guarantee you I will prove them wrong later down the line. So that’s my drive really. My mum says it all the time that she’s grateful for those comments because they are what’s pushed me to where I am today. I think also not being afraid of failing. I’ve failed many a time whether it’s a bad game or a not a great session and not been as good as my opponent but without failure you don’t get growth and without that you don’t learn so I’m not afraid to fail.

England get their World Cup campaign underway against Scotland on 9 June.