New England call-up Maya Le Tissier reaping rewards of unusual route to top

Maya Le Tissier has followed a path unlike any other to earn her first England call-up.

The 20-year-old Manchester United defender has joined up with Sarina Wiegman’s 25-strong squad for friendlies against Japan and Norway in Spain this weekend, finding her feet in yet another new environment as she navigated her way around St George’s Park for the first time.

But Le Tissier has grown comfortable with being forced out of her comfort zone – because her development in the game forced her to do that from a young age.

Growing up on the Channel Island of Guernsey, Le Tissier did not have the option of playing for a local girls’ team because there were none. Instead, she played for the boys’ team her father Darren coached, while also regularly flying over to play girls’ football in Hampshire.

“I didn’t know any different from playing with the boys,” Le Tissier said. “That’s what made me the player I am today, I was playing with boys from the age of four to 16, so at that stage I was playing under-18s football and they were basically men.

“To come into the Women’s Super League, it’s different but I’ve experienced the physicality of it back home.”

Maya is not related to Matt Le Tissier, but he was a rare local role model for a youngster looking to make it in the game – something Maya now wants to be herself as the opportunities at all levels of the game start to open up.

Maya Le Tissier
Maya Le Tissier made her name at Brighton (Martin Rickett/PA).

She moved to England to sign with Brighton in 2018, quickly breaking into the first team and making her debut at the age of 16.

“I think I’ve grown up pretty quickly,” she said. “I’m still a kid at heart, I’m one of the younger players in the squad. But flying over (to England) to try and get noticed, people would think you were crazy, flying over from such a small place to try to get recognised.

“But I loved it. Mum and dad had to take time out and I had a lot of support from back home, it was great with sponsorship and that community spirit. I was very lucky. Hopefully everyone back home can see it’s paid off.”

Impressive performances saw her named Brighton’s young player of the season in each of the past two seasons, and she was also nominated for the PFA’s young player of the year awards too.

Eager to push herself further, Le Tissier uprooted herself again this summer to join an ambitious Manchester United squad with sights set on the WSL title.

“It’s a massive change,” she said. “I loved my time at Brighton and learned a lot from Hope (Powell) and the staff, but I felt this summer was the right time to challenge myself and that’s why I decided to go to United.

“At Brighton we didn’t always have a lot of the ball, it was a lot of defensive work on the fundamentals of defensive shape. Coming to United it’s about playing more in possession and I’m getting better at that.”

That has culminated in a place in Wiegman’s squad for the final international window of a remarkable 2022 for England, highlighted of course by their Euro 2022 success.

Le Tissier admitted she was still pinching herself to now be in the same squad as several of those star players who celebrated glory in July.

“It’s so cool to be with the players I was watching at the Euros and that growing up I looked up to,” she said. “It’s very special to be here and I still can’t believe it.”

There were late changes to Wiegman’s squad before they travelled to the airport on Monday afternoon, with injury ruling out Lauren Hemp and the luckless Jordan Nobbs. Everton defender Gabby George was called up as the squad was reduced to 24 players.