Lioness hero Alessia Russo was a formidable player from an early age, her former teachers have revealed, and would scare off opponents.
Headteacher John Malone and PE teacher Claire Brown both got to teach the Lioness at her school in Maidstone, where she studied from 2010 to 2017, and remembered her as ‘driven’ girl who ‘already had the mindset of a great sporting star.’
Alessia’s back-heeled goal in England’s semi-final win over Sweden this week has been hailed as the standout score of the tournament so far.
And speaking to Ben Shephard and Ranvir Singh on GMB today, Malone added that ‘absolutely superb’ Alessia, now 23, played for the boys’ team as well as her local girls’ team, and built a reputation as a fierce player early on.
He revealed opposing teams would ring Alessia’s school before they were due to have a game together, to know whether she would playing.
It comes as Lee Scott, Beth Mead’s former coach in Middlesbrough, also told Lorraine he used to put her in goal so that other players would get a chance at scoring, because she was ‘just that talented.’
Alessia and the other Lionesses are preparing to scare off with Germany on Sunday in the finals of the Women’s Euro
Headteacher John Malone and PE teacher Claire Brown both got to teach the Lioness at her school in Maidstone, where she studied from 2010 to 2017, and remembered her as ‘driven’ girl who ‘already had the mindset of a great sporting star’
Malone revealed opposing teams would ring Alessia’s school before they were due to have a game together, to know whether she would playing
‘She played for the girls’ team but she also, up to a certain again girls can play for the boys team so she did play for our boys football team,’ John explained.
‘And her reputation was out there in the community. So PE departments from other schools would be calling us on the match day to say “is that girl playing for you this evening?” If the answer was yes, they knew that they were going to lose,’ he added.
Both teachers remembered Alessia as a driven student.
‘Being a high achiever in sports today is about much more than the talent on th pitch, it’s about the frame of mind,’ John said.
Alessia was the star of the semi final against Sweden on Tuesday when she scored with an audacious back heel goal
The women’s football star was a ‘driven’ student who already had ‘the mindset of a great sporting star’ her former teachers said
‘She was absolutely superb, she worked and worked and worked, she was a great role model for our students, very humble’ he added.
‘Even then when she was out our school, we knew she’d be a great success,’ he added.
Claire, who arrived at the school when Alessia was in year 11, said: ‘It was clear to see from the minute I arrive she was a very talented girl and very very driven to succeed.
‘It’s really inspirational for our kids. We’re a comprehensive school in Maidstone and for Alessia to have made it where she is now, it’s very inspiration for all our girls to see that they can have a dream,’ she added.
‘Alessia said in Year 7 that she wanted to play for England, and with a bit of dedication and a lot of talent, she’s made it there.’
John and Claire said that the whole school have shown their support for Alessia an the Lionesses all throughout the week.
‘She’s England secret weapon, she comes on at the second half ,and she was our secret weapon,’ John said.
Meanwhile, in Middlesbrough, Lee Scott told Christine Lampard for Lorraine that he used to put Alessia’s teammate Beth Meade in goal so that other players could get a chance at playing.
He said Beth is a fan-favourite for the whole of the North-East region, and added that she everyone could see how talented she was as a child
Former Lioness Faye White, who also appeared on the show and said she has ‘loved every minute of watching’ the team compete in this year’s Euros.
The team are set to face off with Germany on Sunday night after winning 4-0 against Sweden on Tuesday.
Alessia told her classmates in Year 7 that she wanted to play for the England football team, and managed to do so
Former PE teacher Claire Brown said Alessia was a great inspiration for the girls of her former school
Manchester United forward Russo scored England’s third, threading her backheeled shot through the legs of two Sweden players and into the net.
But Russo claimed afterwards she was ‘fortunate’ to score and was frustrated she didn’t convert the much simpler opportunity that fell her way seconds earlier.
‘I could have made it a lot easier for myself if I’d scored the first one,’ said Russo.
‘But yeah, it fell nicely, but I don’t remember too much about it. I just thought it was the quickest route to get it in the back of the net without having to turn.
‘I was fortunate it went in. I didn’t really see it go in, so I don’t know how it went in but I just celebrated and I enjoyed the moment.’
Russo, 23, now has four goals during England’s run in the tournament, level with Germany’s Alexandra Popp and behind only team-mate Beth Mead, who has six.
BBC pundit Ian Wright has even compared Russo to the legendary men’s player Lionel Messi for her outrageous piece of skill.
Wright said: ”’Lessi’, not Messi, for what she has done when she comes on. I don’t know what she has to do to start a game.