Women's Team

My Footballing Icon: Demi Stokes

Focused, dedicated, hard-working and wise, Demi Stokes is the consummate role model.

Although a reserved character who prefers to shy away from the limelight, the left-back has been one of the FA Women’s Super League’s consistent performers throughout her career since making her debut for Sunderland aged just 16.

Now also an established England international, the 28-year-old is an inspiration to all budding footballers.

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But who was it who first sparked her dream? Whose shirt did she own? Who does she model her game on?

In the latest instalment of our new feature, presented by Hays, Stokes reveals her footballing icon...

“My footballing idol growing up was definitely Rachel Yankey,” she declared.

“I first saw her play on TV in the FA Cup when she was playing for Fulham.

“She was playing on the left-wing, which was my position at the time and I remember thinking: ‘I want to be like her!’”

Across a 20-year playing career, Yankey built a remarkably glittering CV, achieving domestic and European success with Arsenal and claiming several individual awards along the way.

With 129 international caps to her name, the former left-winger also stands proudly as England’s all-time highest appearance maker and was awarded an MBE and OBE for her services to football in 2006 and 2014.

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Observing the Lionesses legend’s technique and attributes, Stokes says she models her own game on Yankey and has also enjoyed her own silverware success, albeit at left-back rather than left-wing.

“I always watched her games and watched how she played,” she stated.

“I’m a ball carrier and she was too. She was very good at dribbling and that’s what made her special – I don’t think there were many dribblers around then.

“She had that side to her game and that was what I liked.

“I met her when I was about 15 or 16 and I was actually buzzing! It’s weird to think of it now!”

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Immensely proud of her north-east heritage, Stokes also had plenty of male heroes to look up to, donning either the black or red and white of the Magpies or the Black Cats – if in a more attacking role than her own.

“In terms of male role models, where I’m from, people support either Newcastle or Sunderland,” she explained.

“People love Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, Kevin Phillips… Quite old school names!

“I can’t say I’ve taken much of their traits into my game, especially Shearer’s goalscoring, although people did ask if I used to be a forward when I scored my goal at Chelsea!

“Admittedly, it was a decent finish and probably my favourite City goal because it was so important!”

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