Women's Euro 2017: The highs and lows of being an England player's parent

Millie Bright
Millie Bright earned her first England cap in September 2016
Women's Euro 2017 semi-final: Netherlands v England
Venue: Enschede, the Netherlands Date: Thursday, 3 August Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 live and online; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website; live on Channel Four

Millie Bright is made of stern stuff.

Her grandfather was a coal miner, she learned the art of defending by watching John Terry videos and she is the archetypal no-nonsense centre-half.

And while that inner strength means she has been at ease in England's run to the semi-finals of Euro 2017, it has not been quite such plain sailing for her family.

'I thought I was going to have a heart attack'

Bright, a 23-year-old Chelsea player who two years ago was a midfielder, is the only member of the England squad to have started every game at the European Championship in the Netherlands.

That has been both a blessing and a curse for her family.

Because while Arthur Bramall, who used to work at the Rossington colliery in Doncaster, has kept his cool in the stands like his granddaughter on the field, it has been far more nervy for other members of the Bright entourage.

They have been at every game, and will return on Thursday to watch the semi-final against the Netherlands.

"The nerves really kick in when the anthems are playing and you want the team to win, but as a parent you just don't want your daughter to feel that pain of disappointment if they lose," said Bright's mum Nicola.

"That's the feeling you hang on to during the game, and against France in the quarter-final I had to leave my seat and go outside.

"My heart felt like it was coming out of my chest, and the guys in the burger van were laughing at me because I was pacing around. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

"But when that final whistle came, it was just pure euphoria and pride."

She need not have worried.

Bright's calmness in defence helped England win 1-0 against France - a team who had beaten them in the previous three tournaments - and has also helped her family cope with what they call a "surreal" European Championship.

Millie Bright's grandparents
Bright's grandparents are among those cheering her on in the Netherlands

'The rollercoaster is only going one way'

Bright and her mum speak every day via FaceTime.

But Nicola says she has to "pinch herself" that she and her family are at a major international tournament watching their daughter, who only made her debut in September.

"This is just little Millie from Killamarsh," she told BBC Sport. "She has always dreamed of this, and we've gone along with it because as a parent you have to. But did we ever think it was going to be a reality? Maybe not."

It all hit the family, which also includes dad Steve, grandma Margaret and uncle Andrew, when Millie stepped off the bus for the opening game against Scotland.

"You see the police escorts, then the bus and when they got out, I was gone," said Margaret. "It was so emotional and something I'll never forget. That's when you realise she's made this."

Bright has 14 caps and, if she gets to 16 on Sunday, she could be a European champion.

"I'd like to say it has been a rollercoaster of emotions but the rollercoaster has only being going one way so far," said Nicola. "Up!"

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Highlights: England into semis with France win

It could have all been so different…

Had things worked out differently, Bright could have been competing on a horse rather than a football pitch.

Her parents own a stable in their home village in Derbyshire, and she was a talented rider before football came calling when she was nine.

Participating in both sports at weekends led to a crossroads, and Bright opted for football, deciding she could go back into equestrianism when she retires.

"With football, I had to either give it everything now or I miss my opportunity," she said. "So I'm glad I took this chance."

Bright started her career at Sheffield United's academy at 12, before signing for Doncaster Rovers Belles at 16, and played with some distinction in Women's Super League 2 before Chelsea signed her in 2013.

She initially turned them down, preferring to stay close to her family, but a year later the draw was too strong.

Bright has since won the FA Cup, the WSL 1 title and the recent Spring Series. That decision to move to the capital has proved the right one.

"I was devastated when Millie left home," said Nicola. "It was one of the saddest days of my life. Millie walked out the door with tears streaming down her face, but it was the best thing she ever did. It's down to Chelsea that she is where she is today.

"It's a massive family there and she loves it."

Millie Bright's uncle
Bright's uncle Andrew looks on before the quarter-final against France

100%, just like JT

A comparison with John Terry is an obvious one - plays for Chelsea and England, centre-back, two-footed and a winning mentality you can see in the eyes.

Bright describes the former captain of England men's team and Chelsea - now at Aston Villa - as a "rock" - and watching videos of him helped refine her game.

"I want to win my battles and I never hesitate to go in for a challenge," she said. "You have to make the strikers fear you."

Sound familiar?

But there is another rock who has helped her over the years - grandfather Arthur, whose no-nonsense feedback has been an important part of Bright's development.

"He gives me an honest opinion on the games and my performance and I really respect him for that," she said. "He's really helped me develop as a person and a player.

"When a lot of people doubted me, he's always been the one to pick me up."

And what is his message to the England centre-back before a game?

Nicola says: "'100%.' He doesn't have to add anything else."

Additional reporting by Katie Gornall

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