Teacher Olivia Fuller says star footballers at St Martin’s Academy are a driving force behind her mission to recover from a devastating injury and get back on the pitch.
The 25-year-old, who teaches Key Stage Two at the Chester primary, is a National Women’s Premier League star and Wales youth international defender.
But she has spent a year on the sidelines, after suffering serious knee ligament damage in a game for AFC Fylde.
Now Miss Fuller is winning her battle to return to action. And she says the U11 girls football team at St Martin’s, who have reached the national finals for the second successive year, have been an inspiration.
“The girls in school keep me going,” said the centre-half, who came through the ranks at Liverpool and captained them to Youth Cup glory.
“I’m privileged to coach them on a weekly basis, and we’ve been able to get to the national finals two years in a row.
“What drives me to keep going is to see whether I can get back to the level I was at before my injury.
“I want to show them that though you get setbacks in life in all different forms, it is not a reason to stop doing what you love.
“I’m so proud of them and I can’t wait to see how we get on in the national finals.”
Miss Fuller, who has also played for Sheffield FC before joining Fylde in 2017, suffered ACL and meniscus damage in the penultimate game of 2021-22.
Due to Covid-19 and long NHS waiting list times, the surgery she needed was delayed. But as a result of extreme kindness from surgeon Pete Gallacher, her surgery was expedited. Fylde also set up a crowdfunder to help pay for the surgery.
Now several months post-op, Miss Fuller is stepping up her rehabilitation and has her sights set on a return to action next season.
Miss Fuller became part of the team at St Martins in 2019. The Hoole Road primary is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, and is part of North West Academies Trust, which runs schools across Cheshire and Shropshire.
Wenda Smith, head of school, said: “Miss Fuller helps to show our children that all barriers can be overcome, we are extremely proud of her and all very excited for the national finals.
“I must also thank our local Chester Nomads squad. High quality coaching offered by the Nomads volunteers and regular game time against quality local teams has been vital in the girls’ development, and of course none of it is possible without the commitment of parents and coaches out of school whatever activity they enjoy.”