FIELD OF DREAMS: Teenager Freya Johnson has signed for the Durham WIldcats U20 development squad
FIELD OF DREAMS: Teenager Freya Johnson has signed for the Durham WIldcats U20 development squad

A DALE teenager’s dreams of following in the footsteps of the England Lionesses take a step forward this week with the start of pre-season football training.

Freya Johnson has signed for Durham Women FC’s U20 development squad and will combine football with studying A levels in PE, business and medical science at the city’s sixth form centre.

The 16-year-old, from Mickleton, has impressed with her footballing skills since joining Bishop Auckland Girls FC as a 13-year-old.

After a year, during which time she was selected for the district team, she joined Middlesbrough Lionesses, where she spent the next two seasons.

During her time at Middlesbrough, she was picked for the Teesside Regional Talent Centre – the girls’ equivalent to the Middlesbrough football academy for boys – playing in the Northern Elite League.

Although she was asked to stay on at the Lionesses, Freya impressed at trials for Durham WFC – known as the Wildcats – and was offered a place in the club’s U20 development squad.

The senior Durham team plays in the FA Championship – the second tier of women’s football – and ended last season in fourth place, behind champions Manchester United Women FC.

Freya’s interest in the game was kindled during kickabouts at Cotherstone Primary School.

“No-one in my family has done anything with football really,” she said.

“I got into it at Cotherstone, joining in with the boys at break times. On a Friday, someone would come in and ref a match at lunchtime.

“I then went for a couple of sessions at the boys’ club in Barnard Castle and they said I should try for the Durham player development centre. That was when dad thought it would be quite good to join Bishop.

“From joining Bishop, all this other stuff has come about.”

At the time, Freya fancied her chances as a winger, however, things have turned out differently.

“There was a game when we were short of a centre-back and they put me there. I remember scoring from behind the half way line.

“I played centre-back again, decided it was my position and it has stuck.”

Having just completed her GCSEs at Teesdale School, Freya said she was looking forward to pre-season training for the Durham Wildcats, which was due to begin on Tuesday, July 9.

“I want to end up in the Durham first team and in an ideal world I would like to do something for England at youth or senior level – I'll just see where it takes me.

“If I could, I would love to go professional.”

Meanwhile, she has been cheering on the England Lionesses in the Women's football World Cup.

She cites North East stars Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton – both defenders, naturally – as her favourite England players.