Lucy Bronze: The making of the Lionesses' World Cup star

Lucy Bronze was just four when brother Jorge picked up a pair of scissors and hacked away at her hair, clump after clump.

A salvage job at the local hairdresser later, and a satisfied Bronze, whose mother's refusal to chop her locks made her turn to six-year-old Jorge, was left with a boyish cut.

It was just the job for sidling in unnoticed alongside the young lads booting a football around near the family home on the Northumberland island of Lindisfarne.

Yet little Lucia Roberta Tough Bronze was soon running rings around those boys, taking the first steps towards starring for England on the World Cup stage.

Today the 27-year-old is "the best player in the world" according to Lionesses manager Phil Neville, and amid England's dazzling run in France she became one of the faces of the British sporting summer.

Jorge wrote a heartfelt letter to his sister as she departed for France, complete with a teasing "Don't be s***" sign-off, and was roaring her on from the stands against the United States in Lyon.

For the Bronze family, it was another night to be proud. There have been many of those with more to come.

The World Cup dream is over for England after the heartbreaking semi-final defeat to the United States, but trophy success on home soil at Euro 2021 is a realistic goal. Bronze, devastated by Tuesday's loss, could land gold next summer too with Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics.

Parents Diane and Joaquim, unlike so many living within striking distance of Newcastle, had no interest in football until little Lucy began to demonstrate prodigious talent.

The family moved to the mainland and Bronze shone for Alnwick Town's mixed junior team. Sunderland's youth ranks beckoned, then the first team, then Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Lyon and the Lionesses.

Like many an ambitious youngster, Bronze had been wary about sharing her life's dreams with her careers adviser. Not least because mum Diane held that role at the Duchess' Community High School in Alnwick, as well as being a maths teacher - and she saw football as little more than a hobby.

But being up front about her desire had positive consequences. Bronze, aged 17, secured a scholarship to the University of North Carolina that became a key stepping stone in her life.

"I'm very independent and was quite mature for my age," she said of her move to Chapel Hill. "My parents were a bit scared.

"Moving out and living on my own was a big thing but to be in a different country with different coaches and a different mentality changed me as a person, as a player, the way I think about things and the way I see people."

Bronze was still in the womb when she first set tongues wagging.

The Bronzes had moved to Lindisfarne, home to fewer than 200 people, after a death in the family, and the pending arrival of Lucy in the autumn of 1991 put them in a quandary.

The mile-long causeway from the north-east coast to the island is impassable for around 12 hours every day, and local midwives were bursting with enthusiasm about the prospect of taking a helicopter across to help out Mrs Bronze - who was having none of it.

"So I was actually born in Berwick because my mum went there early," Bronze said. "She refused to give birth on this tiny island with no hospital and no doctors, and the potential of there not being a road there depending on tides."

Bronze became no stranger to doctors, needing four knee operations in the early years of her top-flight career.

She lost out on vital appearance money and paid herself through university in Leeds by taking jobs at the Domino's pizza shop in Headingley, and behind the bar at the nearby Goals five-a-side centre. She ate enough margherita to horrify any football club dietician.

Such indulgences are rare nowadays. Bronze has become not merely a goalscoring playmaker at right-back but a remarkable athlete, said to be bringing in a handsome six-figure salary at Lyon.

To watch her doing laps of the pitch at England's St George's Park headquarters, it is no stretch to imagine Bronze running a Sally Gunnell-like leg in a championship 4 x 400 metres relay.

She can afford a sharp haircut too, sparing Jorge any more blunt-scissored efforts. And the days of trying to merely keep up with the boys? Long gone.

Sport historians will record whether this has been a golden era for English women's football, or whether the prosperity will endure. They might well define these years as the second Bronze age.

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