Accrington keeper Millie Topping is netting a promising education, a burgeoning football career and is even travelling the world – thanks to some of the safest hands in further education.

The sensational Stanley shot-stopper is successfully tackling A Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Biology at Nelson and Colne College in the hope of a career in either medicine – or banking.

And she has recently returned from a trip to Dallas with the Reds, where she was mobbed by photo and autograph hunters as if she were David Beckham.

Millie’s perfect performances also attracted the attention of dozens of US colleges, leaving her considering a move Stateside – and an option to gain a sports scholarship. This has given Millie the extra determination she needs to continue to excel in her A Level studies, as scholarships don’t just rely on sporting ability, but usually have high academic requirements too. This works well for Millie, as she is doing great in her studies so far.

The 17-year-old student stayed with a Texan family whilst competing in a tournament against elite teams from academies such as Florida. She also had her first experience of football – American style – against the family’s sons, reminding Millie of her start in football, where she joined in boy’s matches on the school yard.

But the rise from kick-about to winning an all-England tournament with Lancashire, has not always been an easy one – with Millie admitting she cried when first put in goal. “I was wearing trainers, not boots and I didn’t want to go in the nets” she said, “but I found I was quite good at it, and we won, 2-0!”

Unable to find a junior girls’ team anywhere in the region, Millie starred in a trial against Everton Under 21 Ladies at the Barnfield Training Centre and was taken on by her beloved Burnley. Still a season-ticket holder at Turf Moor, fate dealt another blow when a new manager arrived and disbanded the club’s under-16s team. But stout-hearted Millie showed her mettle again – and was taken on by Accrington, where she was one of two goalies travelling to America.

“People couldn’t wait to see a football team from England and were even asking for photos and an autograph” she laughed, “the game there was very quick and technical. It was a great experience.”

Burnley FC in the Community has played a significant role in laying out the path for Millie to pursue her passion whilst receiving the best A Level education provision. Taking part in the BFC Post-16 Programme in Year 11, she was encouraged to continue chasing her dreams through enrolment at Nelson and Colne College and to capitalise on the college’s partnership with Burnley FC. Unsurprisingly for a keeper, she wanted to be at the number one for sport and somewhere she would be supported to excel in her studies too! Fast forward to today, Millie now has a UEFA C Football Coaching Licence thanks to her involvement in NCC’s exclusive sport programmes.

“Millie is proof positive that the right attitude can take you a long way in education, life, and of course, sport” said Lisa O’Loughlin, Principal and CEO of Nelson and Colne College Group “I thank our staff for supporting her through her transition to college, enabling her to feel comfortable straight away and start to really shine in her studies as well as her sport. But more than that, I am glad they nurtured that spirit of determination that kept her being a wonder for Lancashire between the sticks.”

To illustrate Lisa’s point, one glaring obstacle Millie has overcome is – her height. Whilst England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley stands at 5ft 11 inches, she is just five foot-three. “I have heard opposition teams saying, “chip it over her, she’s small” but they have never managed it. Football has taught me many skills such as communication, but its biggest lesson is: It’s all about where YOU are!”