When Missy Bo Kearns puts on the Liverpool shirt at Prenton Park on Sunday, she will be fulfilling a lifelong dream of lifting a trophy with her childhood club.
After a promising but ultimately frustrating season last time out as the Liverpool FC Women narrowly missed out on promotion, it has been a breakthrough year for their No. 7.
Kearns has followed up on her Player of the Season award by signing a new contract with the club, and this term the young Scouser has established herself as a key player for the Reds and the England under-23s.
The hard work culminated with a game-clinching goal as Liverpool won 4-2 at Bristol City earlier this month to tie up the Women’s Championship title.
That trophy will be lifted on Sunday, after the final home game of the season against Sheffield United, which kicks off at 12pm – with fans able to take in the title celebrations before the men’s Merseyside derby later in the day.
Doing so will make it one trophy apiece for Kearns and her old team-mate Curtis Jones so far this season.
“Me and Curtis played for Mossley Hill when we were kids, before we both signed for Liverpool,” Kearns tells This Is Anfield.
“He was the same player that he is now: he’d take you on, he’d come back, he’d take you on again.
“He deserves everything. Joining the academy at such a young age, it’s not easy. People might think ‘oh, he’s at Liverpool, what a life’, but the sacrifices you have to make, it’s not easy.
“If everyone could do it, everyone would do it.
“I think it just shows the ones who do make it, it’s hard work, commitment. So for Curtis, I’m made up for everything that he’s starting to achieve.
“But it’s only the start, he’s the same age as me and he’s got the world at his feet if he keeps working hard.”
Kearns joins This Is Anfield in the stands at Prenton Park, where the 21-year-old from Allerton became the club’s youngest-ever female captain in November, marking it with two assists in a 2-1 victory over Blackburn.
Watching on that night was Trent Alexander-Arnold, but despite the significance of the occasion, Kearns simply played as she always has.
“It didn’t faze me one bit,” she recalls of her upbringing playing in a boys’ side.
“There were people on the sidelines saying ‘tackle her, tackle her’, but I just used to laugh and cut it all out.
“Once I had the ball at my feet and I was on the pitch, I was just playing.
“The lads in my team didn’t find it any different because they knew I could keep up. I used to score, I used to assist, so it didn’t affect them – they knew I could play football.
“It didn’t bother me really, but I think now, young girls growing up, it’s normal playing football.
“When I was a kid, I was the only girl. There were 10 football pitches, I was the only girl there. But it didn’t really faze me, I just loved playing football.”
The scenes on Sunday will be cherished by the Kearns family, with the midfielder currently living at home with her parents, but also by the thousands watching on.
With Liverpool soon to be back in the Women’s Super League, it is a chance for the likes of Kearns and team-mates such as captain Niamh Fahey, wing-back Taylor Hinds, goalkeeper Rachael Laws and forward Leanne Kiernan to inspire.
“At that time, I didn’t know there was a women’s academy setup. So I just thought I’m going to have to play with the lads,” Kearns continues.
“I was saying ‘I’m going to play for Liverpool’, ‘I want to be Gerrard’, but now for young girls they can look up and say ‘I want to be Niamh Fahey’, ‘I want to be anyone in the Liverpool team’.
“I think it’s great.”
* Liverpool Women will lift the Women’s Championship title on Sunday, April 24, at Prenton Park, fans can tune in live on the FA Player here at 12pm.
Tickets are still available, with all under-16s costing just £1, and can be purchased here!