James Grundy MP: Leigh has every reason to be proud of our sports stars
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It was heart-breaking to see them just miss out on the top prize after such an incredible effort through the tournament. I think I join everybody across the country in being incredibly proud of the entire team in coming so far.
Since 1966, it has become an unfortunate staple of English culture to expect a football World Cup defeat but time after time, so many supporters still fully rally behind our teams, and it has been brilliant to see this build up with each step the team made in coming closer to the final.
For the Lionesses to get to the World Cup final for the first time and a first final for England in decades, is an undeniable game-changer for English football.
This was echoed throughout by the amazing efforts of local midfielder Ella Toone throughout the competition, setting an incredible example to so many locally, inspiring women and girls in the sport across England and doing the constituency proud.
Toone plays her team home games at Leigh Sports Village with Manchester United, is from Tyldesley and her talent and hard work – as well as local women like her such as Keely Hodgkinson from Atherton who won a silver medal at the 2020 Olympics – I hope, will serve as an inspiration for other aspiring local athletes showing not only can it be done, but it’s possible to get to the very pinnacle.
Incredibly, Toone’s screamer against Australia meant that she has cemented herself in football folklore for all time, becoming the only player on the England team in the entire history of the game, whether female or male, to score goals in the quarter-final, semi-final and final of a major tournament, ensuring her name in the record books.
The cumulation of the FIFA World Cup follows Leigh Leopards historic Betfred Challenge Cup success last week, facing off at Wembley Stadium against Hull KR.
I had the pleasure of attending the Leopards’ nail-biting final at Wembley, winning 17-16 and paying off the half a century of waiting for a victory of this kind. Leigh has been at the centre of Rugby League as a sport since its inception in 1895, with the sport becoming a staple of the local identity and economy of Leigh.
The Leigh Leopards going to ‘Wember-Leigh’ (as many locals had dubbed it) and securing their place in Rugby League history had undoubtedly galvanised the community and we should all be incredibly proud and thankful to the leopard-print suit sporting owner Derek Beaumont, the players, sponsors, managers, coaches, and the staff at the club for transforming the team.
Amazingly, the by-product of all of this has been that pride in Leigh and its surrounding communities is at an all-time high, bolstered by victory at Wembley and the Lionesses successes in the past weeks in Australia, showing the country and the world what determined Leythers can do.