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Womens Premiership


01 Jun 2021
Linfield Ladies are a club renowned for developing young talents into stars of both the Women’s Danske Bank Premiership and Northern Ireland international squad.
There is no better example of this than defender Kelsie Burrows, who debuted for the club shortly after her 15th birthday and has developed into one of the league’s leading talents since.
Now aged 20, Burrows - who joined the Blues from Comber Rec - has won four successive league titles in South Belfast, had a stint at English Championship club Blackburn Rovers and progressed through the Northern Ireland ranks right up to senior level.
Despite her youth, she is now one of the most experienced players in a youthful side - and she is more than aware of the challenges of integrating young stars into senior football.
Burrows explained of her debut: “It was the most nerve-wracking moment, to be playing against all these senior players and you’re just a 14-year-old.
“You’re coming up against girls who are way more experienced, who have developed physically and are much stronger than you - it is a steep learning curve.
“From my experience, I know these girls need minutes and confidence to help them improve and in a few years time, these girls at the club will be big, big names.
“It is an experience which teaches you to be patient and work hard, to accept setbacks and to allow that to motivate you and to give yourself something to fight for and improve.
“To win four league titles and to play in the Champions League at such a young age is an incredible experience, then the international experience too.
“I would love to be part of the Northern Ireland team at the Euros next summer and I know I have to work really hard to prove my level and that I deserve my place.
“The competition for places within the squad is incredible - everybody want to play and be involved within that squad.”
The Blues won four successive league titles before being ousted to the title by Belfast rivals Glentoran last season, while Cliftonville are another major challenger this time round.
However, whilst their Belfast rivals have recruited multiple international stars in recent months, the policy of Phil Lewis’s side has remained on played development.
Burrows added: “Myself, Abbie Magee and Rebecca Bassett are all in our early 20s but we are among the most experienced players at Linfield.
“Other teams have players aged 25 or above in their side with the 20-year-olds looking up to them, but here it is a case of the teenagers looking up to us at 20.
“That teaches you to put your arms around the younger girls and give them a helping hand when you can.
“Cliftonville and Glentoran have been signing established internationals, but we have young kids coming through from the Swifts, and we need to have patience.
“Jane McMaster is only 16 and she has started in the last few games and has been brilliant, so the need for signings is not there when you trust and develop those youth players.
“There are so many players coming through with big potential, so we need to be aware they will continue to get better.”
It has been a tough start to the season for the Blues despite home wins over Sion Swifts and Derry, as they fell to single-goal losses at Crusaders and Cliftonville, while they were held to a draw against Glentoran.
“The start to the season is not what we wanted - we need to start scoring more goals and winning more games,” said Burrows.
“We have been dominating games but not finishing of our chances.
“This is a long season - we play each other four times, so now we have already seen how teams set out and approach games, so we need to be able to handle that.
“We need to start scoring more goals - we have been brilliant on the ball in recent games but that final ball in the final third hasn’t been missing.
“We have top players at that end of the pitch and if they can find their true form, then we will be picking up a lot more points.”
Burrows was one of a series of Danske Bank Women’s Premiership stars to join clubs in England, but a return home to Northern Ireland saw her link-up with the Blues again last year.
She added: “This is the tightest the league has ever been - every team is capable of challenging in every single game and the competitiveness is brilliant.
“We know in our ranks that we have something to fight for and play for, we know that we are capable of winning trophies and challenging for the league title.
“We have played in the Champions League in recent years and that has been an eye-opener for a lot of the younger players - it shows the level we want to ultimately reach and we know that takes so much hard work.”
Linfield host Cliftonville this week, meaning they will face their former stars Kirsty McGuinness, Caitlin McGuinness and Louise McDaniel.
“Cliftonville are a team who want to get in the ball and hurt you - they’re a really strong team and will present a big challenge,” continued Burrows.
“They scored three goals against us last time so we know this time we know we’ll need to be able to keep it tight and try to have more control in the games.
“We know this is a long season and it is a big challenge to be competing at the top end.”