Mary Phillip: Pioneering the Path of Becoming a history maker

Mary Phillip: Pioneering the Path of Becoming the First Black Captain of England’s National Team the Lionesses

Trailblazing the Lionesses’ Captaincy

Mary Phillip put her name in the annals of English football history by becoming the first black woman to captain the England national team, the Lionesses.

Her appointment as skipper in 2003 marked a significant milestone in the sport, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations.

“That is something that always goes down in history. And long after I’m gone, my great great grandkids will be able to see that when looking back in women’s football and say, ‘Hey, Mary Phillip, that’s my grandma, and she became England’s first black captain’.”

A Homegrown Talent

Born and raised in the vibrant community of Peckham, South London, Phillip’s footballing journey began at an early age. She joined the Millwall Lionesses at just 12 years old, honing her skills and developing a deep passion for the beautiful game.

Despite facing numerous challenges and societal perceptions, Phillip’s determination and talent shone through, earning her first call-up to the England squad at the tender age of 18 in 1995, after only a couple of training sessions.

“I received a letter from the FA saying I had been pulled up into the England squad for the upcoming World Cup. And it was a surprise because I’d only been to a couple of training sessions, and I’m now going to a World Cup.”

A Decorated Career

Phillip’s illustrious career saw her earn 65 international caps and become the only player to represent England in two World Cup squads until 2011. Her on-field achievements were equally impressive, winning five Women’s Premier Leagues and seven FA Cups with clubs like Arsenal and Fulham.

Her leadership qualities and unwavering spirit made her a natural choice for the captaincy, and in 2003, she was handed the armband, breaking new ground as the first black woman to lead the Lionesses.

“To be able to go out there [as captain], give the messages and be able to lead and uplift the team and carry us forward. You know, it’s a great experience to have.”

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Phillip’s impact on the game extends far beyond her playing days. Currently managing the men’s Kent County League team Peckham Town, she continues to inspire and mentor the next generation of footballers.

Her advice to current England captain Leah Williamson is a testament to her leadership philosophy: “Just be the player you are, that’s all you can do!”