Ingle: Playing with boys helped shaped me as a footballer

Ingle: Playing with boys helped shaped me as a footballer

Growing up as a football-loving kid in Wales, there were no girls team for Sophie Ingle to join. Instead, she played with the boys team at Vale Wanderers until the age of 12.

Despite her parents' best efforts, she was forced to take a break from the game as Football Association of Wales' rules stated girls could not play on boys teams when she turned 12-years-old. Having little access to girls teams while growing up is a well-told and all too familiar story for many female professional footballers.

Of course, Ingle would later find a home at Cardiff City as a teenager, also spending time at Bristol City, Liverpool and two spells at Chelsea, where she currently finds herself locked in a Women's Super League title race.

The 30-year-old midfielder believes her time playing with the boys team as a youngster helped develop some of the skills Ingle still uses today, but she could not be happier to see plenty of girls' teams being formed at youth level.

In an exclusive interview ahead of Chelsea's trip to Birmingham on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, she said: "I spoke to a fan recently in Wales and she was the mother of a little girl and said she's now gone to play for a girls team and she's glad there are girls team available.

It's amazing because as a kid, I never had that. I loved playing with the boys and it did develop me into the player I am today, but for girls to get involved at a young age, there needs to be girls teams.

"It's nice to hear that there's a lot of teams now back home in Wales and here in England. Girls can feel comfortable going to training and just enjoy it to start with at a young age.

"I think one of my strengths is trying to read the game. As a kid, playing against boys teams, that probably helped me growing up. I had to think quicker, I had to try and be stronger against the boys and especially with mentality as well, to physically battle with them so I do think that helped.