Okehampton’s budding Lioness Erin Read has earned a spot at Exeter City Ladies Under-16 training squad as she works towards her dream of becoming a professional footballer.

On the back of last year’s success when she was selected to play for Exeter City’s Under-14 development squad, 14-year-old Erin has now risen to join the ranks of the Under-16 development squad and gained the support of Okehampton’s Freemasons and Lions who are championing the rising star.

Last weekend, the Freemasons showed their support for Erin’s budding career and presented her with a cheque for £200 which follows another £100 donation from the Okehampton Lions.

Erin’s mum Chrissie explained that the money will go towards the cost of the training fees and the funding of the new kit needed for the U16 squad which is playing in red and black as opposed to the blue in which Erin played last year.

She added: “[Erin’s] been accepted into the GDC (Girls’ Development Centre). The money is actually going to for the fees for her to do that. The Lions paid £100 for the kit and the Masons are paying for the fees for the year.

“She goes up to Exeter every Thursday for an hour and a half [to train] and there are fixtures throughout the year.”

The weekly training sessions take place at the men’s football team training pitch near Crealy.

Erin is now four weeks into her Under-16 training and said she was really enjoying herself – despite a recent sprained ankle she received while playing football at school. 

Her ankle injury meant that Erin had to skip last week’s training session but since she started a month ago she has already made friends, improved her footballing skills and even met some of the professional players on the Exeter City women’s team, including team captain Manfy Sharpe.

In fact, Erin’s talent means she is now only two teams away from making the professional first Exeter City Women’s Football Club team.

“Even though she’s 14 she’s classed as Under-16 as there’s no Under-15. Under-16 is the highest level, then there’s the reserves and then the first team,” said Chrissie.

Erin is already planning the next stage of her career after she has completed her GCSEs in two years’ time and hopes to play full-time in the future.

Both Erin and Chrissie agreed that the ultimate achievement would be to play professionally for Arsenal,  and perhaps even become an England Lioness one day. 

England’s Lionesses reached the final of the Women’s World Cup, hosted in Sydney, Australia, earlier this year but lost to Spain 1-0. 

Erin added that the Lionesses, who won the Euros 2022, played really well right until the final game when Spain just beat them to the world title.