It’s fair to say that Rachel Brown-Finnis’ life in football didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts. Despite first getting involved in a boys’ team at primary-school age, The Football Association (FA) rules surrounding mixed-gender teams forced the Burnley-born goalkeeper to endure a couple of years away from the pitch before things could really get going. Eventually, however, she found her way to Accrington Ladies, making her first appearances for their youth team during her early-mid teenage years.

An early start

Looking to develop her skills, a 14-year-old Rachel Brown-Finnis chose to attend an Easter goalkeeping camp in London – and the decision certainly paid off. It was here that she was scouted by representatives of Liverpool Ladies, who were then competing in the FA Women’s Premier League National Division.

Rachel signed a contract with Liverpool in 1995 and spent three years playing on Merseyside – a period which involved an appearance at the 1996 FA Women’s Cup final and her first caps for the England national team. In 1998 she relocated to the United States to continue her career and further her academic studies, claiming she preferred the American attitude towards women’s football.

Successful spells at university teams Alabama Crimson Tide and Pittsburgh Panthers followed, with the still-young goalkeeper setting the latter club’s record for the fewest goals conceded in a single season. After completing her studies in sports science, she returned to the UK in search of a new club.

Back to Merseyside

With Liverpool Ladies now relegated to a lower league, Rachel switched her allegiance to sign a contract with the reds’ high-flying local rivals, Everton Ladies, in 2003. After a short loan spell in Iceland, she started playing in goal for her new permanent club, although a serious knee injury severely hampered progress between December 2003 and June 2005.

Since then, things went much more smoothly for the former Toffees’ keeper; not only did she establish herself as Everton’s number one, she also continued to feature regularly between the posts for England – right up until her retirement from football in January 2015.

Other pursuits

Rachel’ involvement in the game goes beyond her performances on the pitch itself. Having built up more than 80 caps for England and a huge number of club appearances over the last two decades, she also uses her experience and insight to help others learn the ins and outs of the game. Alongside her work with Everton’s Community Project, she acts as an Athlete Mentor for Sky Sports’ Living for Sport campaign, helping ensure young people are able to get involved in various sporting activities.

Rachel Brown-Finnis has a central role at UCFB, acting as an ambassador and a member of the advisory board. She also regularly lectures UCFB students at both campuses and organises student placements and work experience opportunities within the industry.