What Happened To Ashleigh Goddard: The Winner Of Wayne Rooney's Street Striker
Those behind the scenes at popular TV show Wayne Rooney's Street Striker arrive at a Powerleague pitch in the suburbs of North London. It's the height of summer in 2009 and hundreds of talented young footballers are desperate to impress onlooking scouts.
The quest to find Britain's most talented street footballer has officially begun.
Just a few months ago, Travis Beckford, a 16-year-old from West London, inspired a generation of wannabe footballers when he was crowned the winner of series one. After kicking balls into car windows and dribbling through tyres, the teenager was invited to attend trials at Leeds United in the weeks after his on-screen success.
Street Striker was now considered the biggest reality programme in England and as a result of its unprecedented success, tens of thousands of hopefuls entered to feature in the show's second series.
As organisers watched on from the sidelines, one confident teenager stood out from the rest.
Ashleigh Goddard, a 17-year-old attacking midfielder from Edgware, was one of the only girls to attend the trials on that warm day in North London.
After progressing through Arsenal's prestigious academy system before representing her country at both England U15s and U17s levels, she decided to apply for the competition thanks to the persistence of her father, who had seen a pop-up advert for the show online.
"He left it open on the computer for me knowing I was using it next." she told SPORTbible.
Her decision to enter Wayne Rooney's Street Striker was the start of a remarkable journey in the competition.
Playing alongside mostly male counterparts, Ashleigh impressed in multiple technical challenges during the trial day, including crossbar challenges and shooting drills.
She was eventually chosen to appear on the programme alongside 24 other hopefuls.
"I turned up and almost the entirety of the competition was boys. At the end of the day, they asked for my details and invited me to the next round. I was told I had impressed a lot of people. Things just went from there."
Goddard wasn't the only girl to make a real statement in the trials. A total of seven girls made it into the competition, impressing a "very nice" Rooney who always encouraged the contestants to relax and do their best.
The fact that almost a third of the contestants were female was a huge step for women's football.
Ten years ago, the overall popularity of the women's game was nowhere near as prominent as it is today but looking back, Wayne Rooney's Street Striker played an important role in its rise.
It gave girls the invaluable opportunity to impress in front of an average viewership of 600,000 people a week, something that Rooney himself was delighted about.
"It's great that so many girls have made it on." Rooney said during filming. "It shows just how strong women's and girls football is at the moment. It's great to see so many female players with such strong street football talent.
"I hope the bigger contingent of girls on the show inspires more to get out there and play football."
Despite Ashleigh's overwhelming success on screen, where she eventually went on to win the entire programme, securing tickets to the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa, the teenage sensation was struggling with issues off it.
She readily admits to struggling with certain aspects of being in the spotlight.
"I wasn't prepared for what was going to come my way." she told us. "I received hundreds if not thousands of comments. The majority were positive but a lot were negative. I was expecting the typical 'she won because she is a girl' and 'it was fixed' but I wasn't prepared for the personal comments like 'she's fat', 'ugly' and worse.
"It was rough. I was young, and it took time to get over. Being on television was weird. I do have mixed feelings about it.
"It all escalated quickly. I was suddenly holding up a Coca-Cola trophy but ultimately, it was the positive comments that outweighed the negative that got me through and I sincerely appreciate all the people who reached out with positivity.
"I am proud to see women's football now thriving. It has grown immensely over that past ten years, which is something I hope continues. I'm glad to be in the game while its happening but all those years ago, it wasn't as well supported.
"I was 17 years old and competing in a male dominated environment."
Ashleigh's confidence took a big hit but she had built a reputation as one of the most talented street footballers in the country. This success on the show undoubtably served her well in the coming months.
In fact, the teenager was offered a full soccer scholarship in the USA shortly after Wayne Rooney's Street Striker ended.
"I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to play for DePaul University in Chicago." she told us.
"It had always been a dream of mine to play football in America. I picked up the connection through one of my coaches at the time and it just went from there. I loved it at DePaul, the coaches and Athletic Department in particular were incredible.
"I was there for four years and spent two years as captain. I'm very proud of all we accomplished."
After graduating from DePaul university, the attacking midfielder decided it was time to return to England, where she joined Championship side Reading on a short term deal before signing permanently for FA Women's Championship side London Bees.
Now in her mid-20's, she was happy but an opportunity to stop juggling life as a semi-professional football with being a secondary school PE teacher would soon come her way.
In August 2018, she left her hometown to join FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark to pursue a lifelong dream.
"I became a full-time footballer for the first time." she said. "It was a fantastic experience. There were small language barriers but generally all the staff and players spoke great English which made the transition of moving to a country where English wasn't their first language a lot easier.
"I would equate our team to a top women's championship team in England."
After a successful five month spell in Scandinavia, the ever-improving Goddard decided it was time for a change, taking a seven hour plane journey to Cyprus: a move to Apollon Ladies FC beckoned, one of the biggest clubs in the country.
It was a decision she described as another "fantastic experience" after qualifying for a Champions League spot.
From hitting balls into bins while Wayne Rooney watched from the sidelines to qualifying for the biggest competition in women's football, the 27-year-old continued to prove her doubters wrong.
But it is her latest move that puts Ashleigh's remarkable journey into perspective.
The attacking midfielder recently joined FA Women's Championship side Crystal Palace, who are aiming to gain promotion to the Women's Super League in the coming months.
"I had a few friends at the club prior to signing, who explained that they were very disappointed with how they did last season, and that they planned on making some big changes. " she told us.
"They sounded ambitious and I like that a lot as I am an ambitious person. It didn't take much convincing once I met the staff and the team.
"Now the only focus is to work hard and gain as many points as possible."
New season... new beginnings! A huge thank you to @PROTALENTSPORT1 for making my move to @cpfc_w possible! Buzzing to kick off the season :clap: pic.twitter.com/Gukh5Q01ca
- Ashleigh Goddard (@AshJG92) August 15, 2019
It was a privilege to wear the armband yesterday for @officialcpfcw - 3 points, 2 assists & 1 very happy squad!!#crystalpalace #football #win #3points #progress #hardwork #squad #onwards pic.twitter.com/jKyc8dxZv3
- Ashleigh Goddard (@AshJG92) September 23, 2019
Goddard, who recently captained Palace in the club's 3-2 win against Lewes, has certainly hit the ground running and manager Dean Davenport is delighted to have her on board.
"Knowing Ashleigh was coming back to England after playing for Apollon Ladies FC in Cyprus, we made contact early on and were delighted that she came to take a look at us." he told us.
"She has trained with us for a couple of weeks now and is a great fit with the team. I know she will bring the experience we need and help bring on the younger players."
Ten years after lifting the iconic Coca-Cola trophy as over half a million people watched from home, Goddard is just as ambitious and driven as she was on that memorable day in North London.
"My personal aim is to play as well as I can for Palace and finish as high up the table as possible - the ultimate aim is to play full-time football here in England in the Women's Super League
"Let's see if we can do that at Palace."