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Leanna Goes From Lioness To Senior Wildcat Debut!!


Strong, Determined and Absolutely committed are words that sum up one ambitious former Whitehaven AFC Lioness who made her debut for the Senior Sunderland Ladies Team after progressing through their RTC Pathway earlier last month.


As I go over the interview with Leanna Giles who once played as a young girl for Whitehaven AFC and now I see a grown up young woman its astonishing and quite inspirational to have someone with such talent, but also a real maturity to her thinking in front of me and astounding to see how far she has come. Leanna comes across as a real genuine person who is down to earth, values her close friends and those who support her and have supported her on her journey and a girl who is well and truly grounded by a fantastic family around her. She is always on the go, week in week out keeping her standards really high to reach her goals, and it was a pleasure to catch up with the young and up and coming midfielder to congratulate her from everyone at Whitehaven AFC who are all very proud that one of our own has done so well for herself through lots of hard work and have the opportunity to interview her.





So Leanna, we all at Whitehaven AFC were so proud to hear you made your debut for Sunderland Ladies, tell us, when did you find out, and how did you feel once you knew?

Well I had been playing for the RTC U16s. Mel had came to watch a couple of our training sessions and games and she invited a few of the girls to go and train with the Ladies Team. I had been training with the Ladies for 3 or 4 weeks, training really hard knowing there was a game coming up. On the last training session before the game, Mel had mentioned being part of the squad for the up coming game. I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to play but I prepared myself just incase, as I always do. Then Mel told me to warm up your going on I got so nervous but so excited, I had goose bumps.

Did you know any of the ladies before you made your debut?

Yes, I know quiet a few from training with the Women’s Team 3/4 weeks before. I also know some from being in the RTC and playing with them throughout the RTC. I also know them from going to watch the ladies team play.

So tell us, how did you feel the night before game, could you even sleep?

I felt nervous but excited at the same time. I was just thinking to myself, wow I’m actually going to be playing with the Sunderland ladies first team. It was such a great experience!

How did the whole day and game go, what’s your lasting memories of this special day?

It was brilliant, from the warm up, being around the team to sitting on the bench hoping to get my chance to play. Listening to the players and coaches and Mel, but the best memory was when Mel told me to go and get warmed up because I’m going on. I was so nervous but excited. Getting on for me was by far the best memory and achievement in my career so far.




So to make it to this high level, for a young lass living on the opposite side of country, must be a real proud moment not just for you, but I know you have some special people who help you do all them miles and support you, how have they been after finding out you were picked? Did they get to see it with current covid restrictions?

A very big thanks to my mam, dad and my sisters, a big appreciation to them. I wouldn’t of been able to achieve what I’ve achieved so far without their dedication. My mam, dad and my sisters are really proud of me as it is a big achievement for me to make my debut for the Sunderland Ladies team at such a young age.

It must take a lot of dedication and hard work to reach these goals, describe a normal week for Leanna when comes to football and juggling everything else?

Firstly, I would wake up at 5:30 in the morning to go and do my paper round. I would then come home and finish any homework I needed to do. I would then go to school and after school travel to Sunderland which would take sometimes 2 and a half to 3 hours to get there. I would try get at least 1 hour sleep on way down and do any homework. I would get changed in back of the car and then train for 2 hours. I would then travel back home, sometimes not getting home till after 11. Doing all this on a Monday, Wednesday and Thursday then match day on a Saturday. Depending where we are playing at, sometimes I will be travelling 8 hours because I would travel to Sunderland then to where we are playing then back home. On the other 3 days I don’t travel through to Sunderland, I do my paper round, go to school, do my own training to keep my self sharp and match fit. Sunday is usually a rest day depending on the weather, sometimes I go for a light run then go and watch my sisters play.


Other than making your debut for Sunderland Ladies, what’s been the most enjoyable part of being at Sunderland Academy?

Playing with a great group of girls and working with great coaches. It’s like being part of a family, looking out for each other, working for each other, listening to each other and playing for each other. The most enjoyable part is making memories that will stick with me forever.

Now getting back to your earlier days, I remember you as a lovely footballer on the ball in central Midfield, how would you describe yourself as a player?

I describe myself as a dynamic and disciplined midfielder. I have great ball winning abilities and I am a hard working box-to-box midfielder. I have a strong positional sense, strong on and off the ball movement and I have the ability to read the game with a different range off passing, also with the ability to drive with the ball forward.




Obviously you used to play at Whitehaven AFC and we still see you down at games, what’s your favorite memories at the club?

Remembering when I won the League and the Futsal League with my friends. One of the best memory is playing in the Whitehaven festival, I remember one year in the Semi Final and Final where it was brilliant, everyone was getting behind us. Supporters, coaches and all the other Whitehaven teams cheering us on, it was up there but the best one for me is when we all came down to watch the World Cup in the clubhouse to cheer England on, love them kind of days, creating memories and being part of such a good club.



You must have some people that you look up to and inspire you growing up, sporting or otherwise, who do you look up to and why?

One person I look up to is my dad, watching my dad play. He always told me hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, it’s always stuck with me. He is always educating me on the game and how to improve as a player.

Now for many of our Girls at Whitehaven AFC when this goes out, lots will read your journey, what would you say to them is important to become the best they can be as young footballers?

The most important thing to do is work hard! Have dedication, desire and commitment to what you aspire to be! Don’t give up! Believe! But always have fun, enjoy and express yourself when playing and even when not playing.

Now I know first hand what a great and responsible Academy Sunderland FC RTC is, describe to us what they are like to be involved with?

It’s brilliant! The whole Sunderland academy family are great to get along with. They push you to always be the best and to always believe in yourself and your own ability. As you move up through the ages and you get older, you then become role models to the younger age groups as you move through the RTC,on and off the pitch.


Now finally, what are your future goals, where does Leanna want to see herself achieve in the coming years?

My future goals is to be playing at the highest level in the WSL and playing for my country. DREAM BIG, WORK HARD,STAY FOCUSED & SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GOOD PEOPLE!




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