Lionesses stars’ former coach speaks of pride ahead of quarter-final

Alessia Russo and Lucy Bronze both played for the University of North Carolina women’s team.

The former university coach of England stars Alessia Russo and Lucy Bronze has spoken of his pride at their achievements.

University of North Carolina women’s coach Anson Dorrance told the PA news agency Russo “always went at 100mph” in training and is used as an example to help his current players become elite.

Speaking ahead of the Lionesses’ World Cup quarter-final against Colombia on Saturday, he said the striker “lives on in the legacy that we’re trying to teach all of the kids”.

Mr Dorrance said he considered Bronze, the 2020 World Player of the Year, to be the “best right back in the game right now, certainly watching this World Cup”.

Russo and Bronze have started every game of England’s campaign in Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Dorrance also coached their fellow teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy and the Lionesses’ manager Sarina Wiegman.

Speaking before the quarter-final, Mr Dorrance told PA: “With the luxury of the great players we’ve had in our history, I use a lot of the stories about them to motivate our current players.

“Alessia would be proud to know that I’m using the ‘she always plays the game and not the drill’.

“We’re very big here at the University of North Carolina (UNC) on data collection – so basically at the end of every practice I have six, seven or eight analytics people that are analysing practice and everyone’s ranked in whatever things we competed in in that day.

“Everything is ranked, so that night our analytics team sends to the players the data on the practice performance – so we want these kids to fight their way to the top of all of this.

“For me the data collection is absolutely critical – it drives and motivates the players – but, there are ways you can play the drill rather than play the game.”

Lotte Wubben-Moy
Lotte Wubben-Moy was also coached by Dorrance (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Mr Dorrance, who has coached the UNC women’s team since 1979, gave the example of players slowing down in a shooting drill to achieve more accuracy on their shots.

“Alessia never did that – she always played the game,” he said.

“She always went 100mph to try and score a goal even in an exercise.

“Players who have that kind of discipline to always play the game rather than play the drill improve the fastest.

“I don’t even look at the data, the data is for the players – I’m looking at the training environment and Russo trained ruthlessly to become the player she is and she’s going to keep getting better by the way.

“So even to this day I use examples of my great players, Alessia certainly being one of them, to help my current players become elite.”

He continued: “Alessia lives on in the legacy that we’re trying to teach all of the kids.

“We love the kid. She’s just so gracious and humble and kind and thoughtful – I can go on and on.

“Her character is absolutely off the wall, I just absolutely love everything about this wonderful young woman.”

Lucy Bronze
Lucy Bronze is considered by her former coach to be the best right back in the world (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Mr Dorrance, who also had a lengthy stint as the manager of the US national women’s team, said Bronze becoming the best player in the world in 2020 was one of his proudest moments.

He said: “There’s no question about that.

“How challenging would it be for any outside back to gain this sort of glory?

“The glory usually goes to the goalscorers or the people that are playmaking or finishing chances.

“But for a right back to end up as the world’s greatest player is an amazing compliment to her.”

Addressing her current form, Mr Dorrance said: “My gosh, what a player. I love the way she’s playing now – she’s not showing her age at all.

“She’s playing at an incredibly high level – and I would certainly consider her the best right back in the game right now, certainly watching this World Cup.

“So yes, I’m wonderfully proud of Lucy and everything she’s done in the game.

“For me to watch her play right now, I can’t wait to turn the TV on to see how she performs.

“Her performances are so consistent and she’s been extraordinary, and I’m really enjoying her level and her form right now.”

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