Leanne Cowan on setting an example for her young team
Credit: joshjdss/Wikicommons

Leanne Cowan on setting an example for her young team

Lionesses’ captain talks about playing the Millwall way

Sophie Lawson

Following on from Millwall’s last-gasp defeat to the London Bees at the Hive we spoke to captain, Leanne Cowan about how her role in the team has changed.


One of the handful of teams who’ve had a serious facelift over the summer, the current Millwall team has undergone a huge overhaul, losing all but two senior players. Opting to go down the youth route with their recruitment, the team is now heavily made up of teenagers, just embarking on their senior career.

One of the teams to beat last season, Millwall are likely to find themselves a way from the summit this season, but with the league restructured and rebooted, there is no better time to develop the players in the squad.

The plan for the season is just to give the youngsters as much first team experience as possible. The girls put in a good performance on Sunday, they played really well and that’s carried on into tonight; we’re a bit leggy but we’ve still gone out there. We’ve played well, a couple of us are a bit bruised and beaten but that’s the Millwall way; they’re buying into the philosophy of being a Millwall player and that’s all we can ask of them.

After back-to-back losses in four days, the Lionesses have still given a good account of themselves, the team coming together on the pitch.

When we’ve got everybody on the same page doing that, we’re just hoping to compete, I’m not saying compete for the league, just compete in every game we play, just to get better and better and the points and the results will start going our way.

Faithful captain

A modern day one-club woman, born ten-minutes down the road from Millwall’s Bermondsey home, Cowan was faced with a big decision over the summer. To follow in the footsteps of her teammates and look for a new club or stay true to herself and develop at her childhood club.

“I was a bit indecisive, I always wanted to stay because I’ve been here my whole career; I’ve never wanted to play anywhere else. For me, this is my team, this is where I want to be. When I saw everyone leaving I thought, maybe this is the chance for me to go and step up and then to progress as that player, that leader this year…. At the start I was bit uncertain but when I heard who the staff was coming in and the facilities we were going to get, and everything else, I thought you know what, it’s best for me to stay here and just try and be some sort of example to the younger players coming in.”

Rewarded for her loyalty with the captaincy, Cowan has fast shown her maturity in her new role, adapting herself to be a leader in the team.

It’s about setting the example, doing things the right way. You have to be a more focused and more vocal. It’s brought the leadership out of me that perhaps last year, I didn’t show, or I wasn’t given the chance to show.”

Going down late in the game and in clear distress after a knock to her ankle, the defender showed the resilience and grit typical of the club, playing through the pain and looking for a result.

But it makes you step up, I got a knock today and I thought there’s no way I’m going off, there’s no way I’m leaving them… One of them has gotten a knock five minutes in but she’s played on, that’s what we do, we grind out results, even if we’re in pain, even if we’re hurting. It’s the whole mentality change, everything is a lot more important, sometimes you have to be the voice that somebody doesn’t want to hear and get onto them but it’s no hard feelings, we’re just trying to get on and get better as a team.”

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Derbies galore

With a fractured start to the season due to the international window at the end of last month, the matches are coming thick and fast for Championship and WSL teams alike. With minimal turn-around time between matches, Millwall will have to put the sting of the last-minute loss out of their minds as they prepare to host Crystal Palace in Dartford on Sunday.

We’re hurt, because we’ve got people putting their bodies on the line again today, like we did on Sunday, we were hurt on Sunday. You might have seen that we got beaten four-nil but after the first 20 minutes it wasn’t a walk-over, West Ham had a game, just like today, that wasn’t an easy game for the Bees. We’re hurting, so we’re looking to bounce back and bring that same energy, we’ve got another big derby on Sunday - we’ve got loads of them this year - so it’s just about picking ourselves up and going again. We know how much it hurts to be on the other end of that result, so we’ll be looking to turn things around if we can.”

With the second tier more than a little London-heavy, Millwall face the prospect of four league derbies this season, and a further three in the league cup group stage. Be it Arsenal or Charlton, each game offers the team chance to grow and learn, and put in a proper Millwall performance.

I look at every game the same; we’ve got to go out and perform, we’ve got to do our jobs, everywhere we go and try to get a result. Every game is massive for us this year because every game is a massive learning curve for everyone. So, we’ve go into every single game with the same mentality, that proper Millwall never say die, not letting it be an easy game, getting that passion out… which they are displaying, I’ve been really proud of the girls the last couple of weeks when I’ve sat out. Just being back out there with them is good, we go into every game like; this is us, this is what we do, we’re not easy to beat and don’t go down without a fight.”