A BASINGSTOKE junior football star says she is “ecstatic” to have been signed for Southampton FC.

Lily-ann Beckingham, 10, last year became the first and youngest girl to sign and play for Basingstoke Town FC and play in the U10s junior Premier League - and now is taking on a new challenge in her football career.

Lily-ann said "I'm ecstatic and it means the world to me to be selected for Southampton FC.

“Today Southampton, next step the England squad!"

Lily-ann, from Beggarwood, began playing football at the age of seven for Down Grange FC in the Peter Houseman League.

As coaches realised her potential, she played in a higher division for Popley Pumas FC the following season.

She later left Popley Pumas to play up an age group for an all girls team with Hatchwarren Fireflies U11 who in their first season battled well to make it to the cup finals, but unfortunately came second to long-established Fareham Town FC.

She was also part of the first Basingstoke girls U11 district team, again playing up an age group.

Lily-ann, who is in Year 6 at Kempshott Junior School, also joined the Chelsea foundation in 2019 - a community sports initiative run by Chelsea football club. During this time, she was invited by coach Emily Martin to a trial for Basingstoke Town F.C U10 team.

She enjoyed playing alongside the boys and assisting the team. With the Fireflies and BTFC playing on the same days and same time, she had to make a decision to stay with the girls team or the boys. She chose to stay with BTFC and, thanks to the guidance and support of her coaches here, applied for trials with Southampton, Reading and Chelsea.

Despite initially being informed that all trials were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Southampton F.C later contacted Lily-ann and asked if she was interested in a closed trial.

She undertook the trial for 3 weeks and Southampton F.C now have asked her to sign a contract with them for a year.

But the end of her time at Basingstoke for now was marked in a wonderful way, as she made an appearance as a mascot for the first team at their first home match in Winklebury on Saturday afternoon.

Lily-ann’s parents, Donna and Peter Beckingham, said: "We are both extremely proud of her. All the hard work that she's put in, especially during the lockdown period has really paid off.

“We are extremely grateful to all her coaches, especially Emily Martin who signed her for Basingstoke Town last season and saw her potential. Hopefully this is the start of a very successful career for Lily-ann."

Lily-ann added: " I have really enjoyed my time at Basingstoke Town and have enjoyed the coaching I have received there and at my grassroots team. I will miss my teams and coaches but I am really looking forward to becoming part of the Southampton team.”