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aran embleton

The millennial Geordie Lioness

Aran Embleton

The first millennial Geordie Lioness

(Credit: Aran Embleton)

Aran Embleton was the first millennial Geordie Lioness; a history maker.


It's hard to believe that women's football only came under the umbrella of the Football Association (FA) in 2009 and that the professional female football league only started in 2018!


For modern women's football pioneers like Aran (in the early 2000s), there was no television promotion or marketing that we see today. Aran and her contemporaries carried the flame of the sport despite the abhorrent discrimination against women footballers barely two decades ago.


Born in 1981, Aran lived in Dudley and Cramlington and later attended Seaton Burn High School. She won four senior caps for England.


This is Aran's heroic story of sacrifice, dedication, and of course, being discriminated against because of her gender.


"It all began around 1991, from the age of 10, after playing football during school breaks with the lads,  I would run home - I couldn’t get my school uniform off fast enough and into the latest Toon kit! My pride and joy. 


Nights after school consisted of playing football with the lads from "wor street" opposite my house - on a piece of grass we called our "Wembley". It may have been small, and in winter muddy and devoid of grass, but this turned out to be one of the most important places to learn my trade. 


Even if I say it myself, I was a canny player; in the mould of Peter Beardsley.


Impressed with my skills and love of football, my caretaker Ken Best, found me a football team because I could no longer play for the school boys' team aged 11 due to FA rules that barred mixed gender football teams [introduced in 1902 and only rescinded in 2014]. It still riles me that I wasn't allowed to play with the boys. At the time I couldn’t understand why this was condoned.


In 1991 there were only two women's teams in the North East: Newcastle and the Cowgate Kestrels. When I signed for the latter, I was barely 11 years old. Turning up for my first women's game, I was half the age of most of my new teammates.


Introduced as a sub in the last 15 minutes of the game, I scored a hat-trick. That was it! There was no stopping me.  I may have been tiny but I was fast and skilful. They nicknamed me  "Speedweed". 


I progressed from the Kestrels' reserves to the first team aged 14. 


Also, at 14, I received my very first call up to the England camp. Word had got out and the England manager came to watch me in a Coca-Cola tournament at Bullocksteads, Ponteland. 


I made my debut in March 2001 at Kenilworth Road, home of Luton Town FC against Spain in a 4-2 friendly, making me the only woman in my era from the North East to play for England. It's quite overwhelming to think I made history at this point, ending up with my legacy England number 137. 

As the standard of women's football improved, Cowgate Kestrels later became Blyth Spartans. Playing for Blyth was a game changer. Oh man, the grass was like a bowling green! And Croft Park was where my Dad played in the 60s, when he was a Spartan.


As we progressed, the team moved on to Sunderland because we needed more funding. I had seven happy seasons at Sunderland Ladies but in 2000 left to join a Premier League club. It was a hard decision but professionally I needed to develop and continue my England career. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a Premier League club in the North East.


When Doncaster Belles came knocking and the England manager explained I needed to play at a higher level, I knew it was time to go. 


With the Belles I played in the Women’s FA semi-finals, setting up the winning goal against Arsenal to fire us into the 1999 FA Cup final! 


I also gained caps at U18 England level as I was playing for both the U18 and senior England sides.


Not long after my appearance at Kenilworth Road, I was selected for the first women’s football academy at East Durham College. This is where the elite youngsters came from all over the county to play and drive to be a senior international.


One of my main highlights, of many, was playing in the Women's World Cup qualifiers in 2001 - the fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup. The "Speedweed" from Dudley has made it! 


At the end of my career, I returned to the North East, to New Fordley (between Cramlington and Wideopen) when they started a women’s football team.


New Fordley was my football home for a season until I hung up my boots. However, with football in my blood, I never stopped participating in the beautiful game. I gained my FA coaching badges and now coach throughout the North East, and commentate for Newcastle United Women.


Football belongs to everyone; all ages and genders. I have been very lucky to have had a fulfilled career in the game I love and I'm determined to continue pushing women’s football, to help knock down the barriers for, what is, the fastest-growing sport in the world. I will use every bit of experience to assist this in every way I can.


While playing football should be about having fun, learning new skills, striving to achieve goals, teamwork and meeting new friends, the opportunities - thankfully - now exist for every young girl to have the realistic dream to play for a local club side and even make it to professional level. This takes hard work, dedication and skill, and was something I only achieved for England after many, many years of kicking down doors."  

Contact Aran

Aran gives illustrated, motivational talks and, as a fully qualified football coach, coaches young players, the stars of tomorrow! Aran can be contacted on 07816646509 and via direct links on:


Episode One

An Interview with Aran Embleton (2024).

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