A talented young Horsham footballer has spoken of her ‘great honour’ after she was recognised among the world’s best players and crowned Wales’ young women’s player of the year.
Brighton & Hove Albion forward Bronwen Thomas collected the FAW’s gong for 2016 at a star-studded gala evening to celebrate an historic year for Welsh football.
She was one of the headline makers at the event which featured Wales boss Chris Coleman and Real Madrid legend Gareth Bale.
The award is the latest in a series of achievements for the 16-year-old former Horsham Sparrows player, and follows her call-up to the Welsh senior squad in September for Euro qualifiers against Israel and Austria.
In a remarkable year, the former Greenway Primary School and Tanbridge House pupil, who is now at the Weald School in Billingshurst, also broke through to the senior team at club level.
She netted a hat-trick for Albion as they retained the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup with a 5-1 win over Crawley Wasps, at the Sussex County FA Headquarters.
Just three seasons ago Thomas was playing in the Sussex County Women & Girls Football League with Sparrows, and captained their under-14 team to Sussex Girls Challenge Cup success.
Thomas said: “It came as a total surprise. I was so excited to have a invitation to attend the Wales awards evening with the men that had done so well at the Euros and had no idea I was going to get an award.
“I had to go up and receive it in front of everyone and then be interviewed in front of them all. I will never forget the evening.
“It means a lot, just playing for your country means a lot but to be picked as young player of the year is amazing, it’s a great honour.
“It won’t do it any harm (to my future career) but I completely believe ‘you are as good as your last game’ is the way to approach things.
“I’ve got to keep working really hard and improving as a player to keep getting the opportunities I am at the moment with Brighton and Wales.”
Albion chief executive Paul Barber said: “It has been an amazing year for Bronwen. She has broken into our first team, scored a hat-trick in the Sussex Senior Cup final, been called up to the senior team by Wales, and now won this well-deserved award.
“We are incredibly proud of Bronwen, as a young player who has come through the club’s Regional Talent Centre, and in three short years made the step up to international football.”
Thomas collected her accolade alongside women’s player of the year Natasha Harding and players’ player of the year Sophie Ingle.
There were also awards for men’s player of the year Gareth Bale, players’ player of the year Joe Allen and media choice award-winner Chris Gunter.
Welsh national coach Chris Coleman was presented with an FAW Special Award for his exploits as boss at the European Championships last summer.
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