A GIRL from Winterbourne Down has won Bristol Academy Women Football Club’s Professional of the Year award after just one season at the Women’s Super League club’s Centre of Excellence.

Goalkeeper Sophie Hillyerd, 11, received the accolade from Vixens manager Dave Edmondson and Centre of Excellence manager Mark Humphrey during a presentation evening, which means she is guaranteed a place in the under-13s squad next season.

The special award is only handed out to one player from across five age groups – under-nines to under-17s – and everyone else has to take part in trials to keep their place in the Centre of Excellence.

Hillyerd’s Mum, Myra Lee, said: “I am immensely proud of Sophie. It’s amazing because it’s Sophie’s first season.

“Her football skills are superb and have improved so much since she’s been playing for Bristol Academy’s Centre of Excellence.

“We were so surprised when she won the award but she truly deserved it.”

Elm Park Primary School pupil Hillyerd previously played for Frampton Rangers before going through three weeks of nail biting trials with Bristol Academy last summer.

After being successful she was a regular member of the under-11s side, playing matches all over the country against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Hillyerd was delighted to win the award, saying: “When my name was read out I was surprised and started shaking.

“I feel really proud to represent Bristol and go to all those matches in different parts of the country.”

Hillyerd was awarded for showing exceptional professionalism throughout the season and impressed coaches in both training and matches.

Humphrey said: “Any of the players that received one of the special awards could have won Professional Player, but having watched Sophie in games and training many times this year she's just done that little bit extra right down to the last minute of the last game of the season.

“During the course of the year I ask all the age group coaches which players are progressing well and working hard, and Sophie's name came first consistently for the whole season.”