Women's PFA Young Player of the Year: Nominees

We take a closer look at the nominees for the PFA Young Player of the Year …

FREDA AYISI

  • PFA Young Player of the Year Nominee: Freda Ayisi
  • Club: Birmingham City LFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB:  21/10/1994

There are not many better places to learn your trade than the Arsenal Academy, and Freda Ayisi has certainly benefited from her education at the North London club.

The 20-year-old graduated through Arsenal's youth system and made her debut for the senior side in 2013.

Now it’s Birmingham’s turn to benefit from the prodigious and fearless talent. Blues manager David Parker hailed their new signing earlier in the year: "We're delighted to bring Freda to the football club, she brings quality to Birmingham, being a young and hungry English player with an enormous amount of potential."

The England youth international helped Arsenal to FA Cup success and is already making a big impression with her new club. She already has Champions League experience under her belt, and has represented her country in the Under 17 European Championships.

Having progressed from England’s Under 17 to the Under 23s, Freda is now looking to make the step up to the senior squad. The opportunity to play regular first team football, will certainly help her career development.

HANNAH BLUNDELL

  • PFA Young of the Year Nominee: Hannah Blundell
  • Club: Chelsea LFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 25/05/1994

Hannah Blundell is a current England Under-23 international who is at Chelsea Ladies FC. Blundell is comfortable playing at the back or in the front line. She has tremendous pace and athleticism. The talented youngster is a current member of the England Under 20 squad. And has been labelled as one to watch who, has a bright future ahead of her.

Faye White commented: “She is a composed player who likes to get forward when she can but, first and foremost, she is a hard defender who gives everything for the team.

“She can play right or left back and being so adaptable it makes a coach’s life so much easier. Little wonder she is so highly thought of.”

AOIFE MANNION

  • PFA Young of the Year Nominee: Aoife Mannion
  • Club: Birmingham City LFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 24/9/1995

It’s little wonder that Aoife Mannion can mix it with the toughest of centre forwards given her background and introduction to the physical side of sport.

A versatile defender, who can play in all positions across the back four – the 19 year old attributes her ‘strong and aggressive’ nature down to playing Gaelic football as a youngster.

Mannion said: "Gaelic football is definitely a lot more physical and aggressive than football so you have to be able to handle yourself.

"Another key factor in my positive approach is that I played football for a boys team for three or four years. It was Celtic Reds, under Mark Fogarty's management.”

She began playing football at a young age, coming through Aston Villa’s centre of excellence and quickly making a name as a strong defender.

Mannion made the short journey across the Second City to sign for Birmingham in 2013, and was quickly thrown into Champions League action, making her European bow against Finnish side PK-35 Vantaa, and she has been a mainstay of the Blues defence virtually ever since.

At international level Mannion has represented England at Under 15, Under 17 and Under 19 levels, for whom she made her debut against Holland in 2010. She was also part of the England squad in the 2010 UEFA European Women’s Under 17 Championship.

NIKITA PARRIS

  • PFA Young of the Year Nominee: Nikita Parris
  • Club: Manchester City WFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 10/3/1994

Nikita Parris was named Everton’s player of the season last year and her consistent performances – together with her knack of scoring - convinced Manchester City to take her on loan.

The 21-year-old, who came through the youth system at Everton, became Manchester City's fifth pre-season signing, following Sarah Wiltshire, Lucy Bronze, Jennifer Beattie and Demi Stokes.

Everton boss Andy Spence was disappointed to lose his star turn for a season but expects her to return to the club as a fully-fledged England international.

"Nikita has big ambitions to be part of that England squad particularly with it being a World Cup year," said Spence. "We know as a result we are losing, for a season, a very good player.

“But we very much expect that Nikita will recognise that we have given her this chance and, in 12 months' time, will be looking to come back to Everton."

Nikita’s departure to City was perhaps inevitable as Everton were relegated from the top flight of women’s football after a 21-year stint amongst the game’s elite.

Her international ambitions meant she needed to continue her impressive development in WSL 1, and City were more than happy to provide her with that opportunity.

‘Keets’, who joined Everton at the age of 14 and made her debut for the club in the Champions League in 2010, has represented England at Under 15, 17, 19 and 23 level, with clear designs on making the next big international step.

Her stand-out performances, and 11 goals, in a struggling Everton team made her a sought-after target and City boss Nick Cushing was delighted to secure the 21-year-old’s services, for a year at least, and described Nikita as ‘the most exciting young player in the WSL last season’.

AMY TURNER

  • PFA Young of the Year Nominee: Amy Turner
  • Club: Notts County LFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 4/7/1991

Whilst Turner’s playing career is on the up and following her recent England call-up, Amy is making great strides off the field too.

She is a student of the game in more ways than one and combines her playing career with her Sports and Exercise Science studies at Sheffield Hallam University.

Her off-the-field activities have certainly not affected her performances on it, however, and her nomination for this award is well deserved.

Faye White says: “She has been a regular for Notts County for some time and is up there with some of the most consistent performers in the division.”

Amy, who also had a successful spell in the United States where she gained honours and recognition in an All Star select team, adds: “I have played at an elite level since the age of 16 and the demands of the game are always changing.

“I’d like to think I have demonstrated resilience and a desire for self-development to continue competing at the highest level.”

LEAH WILLIAMSON

  • PFA Young of the Year Nominee: Leah Williamson
  • Club: Arsenal LFC
  • National Team: England
  • DOB: 29/3/1997

Leah Williamson is destined for a long and successful career in the game but, whatever happens in the future, it is unlikely she will ever relive a recent experience which stunned everyone in the game.

The 18-year-old was at the centre of one of the most bizarre incidents in football history when, having converted a late penalty to secure England a place in the European Under 19 finals, the goal was disallowed.

The referee ruled that England players had encroached in the area but rather than awarding a re-take of the spot kick he awarded opponents Norway a free kick, and the game ended 2-0.

After an appeal by the English FA, the decision was overturned and it was ruled a replay (lasting a total of 65 seconds) should take place the next day.

It was certainly an odd 24 hours for young Leah who would again be charged with the task of putting away the penalty which, despite a 2-1 defeat, would send England to the finals in Israel this summer.

To her absolute credit, the young Arsenal midfielder held her nerve and buried the spot kick which will live with her, and others, for the rest of her life. After playing in the shortest ‘replay’ in history, Leah commented: “They were the longest 24 hours of my life. It is just one of those things you never forget.”

Now that Leah and England have booked their tickets to Israel, she is fully focused on adding to her reputation as a rising star with a club she joined at the age of nine in 2006.

Leah made her WSL debut just a year ago, but by the end of the season she was named WSL Cup Player of the Year and England Women’s Youth Player of the Year.

Having signed her first professional contract with the Gunners in March of this year, it is onwards and upwards for a talented youngster who has represented her country from youth to Under 19 level, captaining the Under 17 side along the way.