Rachel Brown-Finnis has spoken of her pride after being inducted to the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.
The former England goalkeeper became the first Burnley-born player to receive the honour, at a special cermony at the museum in Manchester last week.
And the 36-year-old was thrilled to take her place alongside some legends of the game, including one who was there when her love of the game began in the early 1990s!
Rachel explained: “David Seaman, who was someone I grew up admiring, was inducted as well, and I spoke to him. I reminded him of when he was at Arsenal when I went to Bob Wilson’s goalkeeping camp when I was a young girl.
“He presented me with an award for Goalkeeper of the camp, so it was nice to sort of seal the end of our careers with this award.
“It was wonderful. I felt so proud. I was lucky enough to have my mum and dad there, and my first goalkeeping coach came up from London, Mick Payne, to make the presentation.”
Payne played a key role in a hugely distinguished career: “At Bob Wilson’s goalkeeping camp, he was one of the coaches. I was the only girl!
“He’s been pivotal at various stages of my career, he gave me the chance to go to the USA and coach for six weeks, which led to a sports scholarship over there, and he just pointed me in the right direction and has given me so many opportunities.”
Rachel was inducted along with the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Denis Irwin, Mark Lawrenson, Billy Liddell, John Robertson, Seaman, Neville Southall, Gordon Strachan and former England teammate Rachel Unitt, and she said: “I was sat with Joe Royle and Denis Irwin, and spoke with Gordon Strachan as well, who were all really nice.
“We got up on stage and were shown videos of what we have achieved, and there was a lot of footage I haven’t seen before – women’s football wasn’t on television when I started.
“I’m so proud, my career was dwarfed by some of the other players honoured – I’ve only won one FA Cup and a League Cup, but I’ve played abroad in the United States, Iceland, had a decade at Ever and won 82 caps for England.
“I might not have won a lot of titles, but it’s not been straightforward for women’s football in general, and it’s nice for people to be able to see where the game is now, compared to when I started.
“The biggest thing I’m proud of is being part of that transition from amateur to professional – England were fading after 60 minutes in games, against any opposition, but there is now an infrastructure, which is almost pioneering in the game.
“I was part of the side that got to the European Championship Final in 2009, and still won 82 caps, even though we didn’t qualify for a major tournament until 2007, when I’d been playing for the country 10 years! So to be on the Wall of Fame means a lot.”