On Monday morning, England face Nigeria in the last sixteen of the 2023 Women’s World Cup and amongst them, four players with connections to Nottingham; Mary Earps’ is well known, Alex Greenwood played for Notts County in 2015, and Laura Coombs for Nottingham Forest in 2010, but what of the fourth, and that of the Super Falcons’ centre-back, Leicester-born Ashleigh Plumptre.
Her footballing career began with Asfordby Amateurs, and has come a very, very long way since those days in the early noughties, and which has included a spell stateside, first with the USC Trojans for three years playing college football for the University of Southern California, before a brief spell with the LA Galaxy OC, returning to hometown club, and the one she’s supported since childhood, Leicester City, in 2020.
However, it’s the period when, having left Derby County, and before heading to America, that Plumptre’s connection to Nottingham arises; in 2014-15, she made ten, Women’s Super League appearances, for Notts County when the Lady Pies were at their peak, scoring once.
The Leicester-born defender made her debut, at the time being the youngest player to do so for County aged 16 years 108 days, when she replaced Caitlin Friend in 1-0 defeat to Liverpool, 24 August 2014.
Although her appearances were few-and-far between Plumptre did manage to find the back of the net in County’s 5-0, League Cup group stage success against Yeovil Town, on 30 August 2015, her goal sandwiched between a brace from England legend, Ellen White, and goals from Alex Greenwood and Rachel Williams.
She would be an unused substitute as County lost both the FA Cup final, 1-0 against Chelsea, and the League Cup final, 3-0 against Arsenal, the former of which being the first FA Cup final to have been played at Wembley Stadium.
On the international front however, Plumptre donned the England jersey through U15, U17, U19, and U23 levels, earning thirty caps and scoring ten goals, however, just a couple of years ago, she declare her international allegiance to, the Super Falcons, and Nigeria.
Plumptre, along with her sister, began researching their background and heritage during the global pandemic, telling ‘Nigerian Tribune’ that: “Even though we have the same dad, we both have a Nigerian dad and a white mum, she looks a little different to me and has experienced things in school that I never had.
“Most people just assume that I’m white. I identify as being mixed heritage. But my sister … she identifies as being black.”
It was then she switched her allegiance to the African nation, the home of her grandfather’s birth, he being of the Yoruba people of Lagos, making her unofficial, international debut, against Slovenian club side, Olimpia Ljubljana, in July 2021.
Seven months later, in the February of 2022, and Plumptre is making her international in the 2-0 African Cup of Nations qualifier victory, over the Ivory Coast, since going on to not only be selected for, but appearing in the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia & New Zealand.
Continuing about her Nigerian heritage, she told the Tribune: “That’s where I’m like, ‘OK, Nigeria would be good for me to do because then I can experience the culture more, I can come back and teach her about our heritage. That was the trigger for me.
“I love the culture, I honestly love everything about being in Nigeria.
“I’ve also realised how lucky I’ve been to just have been born in this country (England), the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with.
“My Nigerian teammates, for example, they’ve worked so hard, but sometimes they don’t get the same opportunities based upon the teams that they’re playing in, the lack of exposure that they have. It’s a privilege to play with them.”
Read the full piece on Ashleigh Plumptre here.
Now though for Plumptre, and with her contract having expired with Leicester City following 76 appearances and three goals, in four seasons, the defender will be hoping her displays down under, will warrant a contract somewhere, anywhere in the world.
England are the next country that lies in wait, the country of her birth, with the Super Falcons having come through a group consisting of one of the home nations; Nigeria defeated Australia, 3-2, in their second group game, en-route to collecting an impressive five points (from a possible nine) to qualify.
Plumptre, she played 77 minutes of that victory over Australia, adding to, two, 90 minutes outings, and goalless draws, with Canada, and Republic of Ireland, she conceding just one goal in some 257 minutes of action.
However, for those that remember the better part of a decade ago now, the now Super Falcon, who once turned out for Notts County, alongside the like of White and Greenwood, any friendships they may have had then, will be out of the window once they cross those white lines on Monday morning – a place in the last eight of the Women’s World Cup beckons the victor.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @AshPlumptre in action for the Super Eagles in the World Cup.