The Sophist Exclusive | Interview with Millwall Lionesses striker Rianna Dean

Millwall are currently second in the WSL 2, boasting a 12-month unbeaten run, and striker Rianna Dean has played her part in their success with five goals in 15 appearances this season.

The 19-year-old left Arsenal for the Lionesses in July 2017, but has impressed in her debut campaign and looks to have a bright future ahead of her.

Rianna Dean for Millwall.

Dean was initially scouted while playing for a boys football team and revealed it was Queens Park Rangers who enquired about her services.

“I was around 7/8 when I was playing for a boys grassroots team at a football tournament,” she said.

“There were a few scouts around but mainly for boys. However, one of them came over to my manager asking who my parents were. Luckily enough, he put me in contact with someone from QPR where I ended up for three years.”

 The industrious striker progressed through the Arsenal ranks before signing a professional deal. A moment she said was a “proud day”.

 “Signing a contract was a proud day for my family and me. I think as a little girl all I wanted to do was play football. To be given that chance at the highest levels, there’s no other option than to grab it with both hands.”

Despite her young age, RiRi has already enjoyed some great moments in her career, picking up silverware and turning out for the national team at youth level.

Rianna Dean has represented England at youth level.

“There are so many best moments, but I would have to say winning the FA Youth Cup, representing England across different age groups and playing in the u17 European Championships in 2015.”

Dean won the u19 Women’s International Cup in 2016 and Nike u20 International tournament with England a year later, in addition to winning the FA Youth Cup with Arsenal last summer.

Rianna has suffered her setbacks, however, enduring a nine-month ankle injury that impacted her mentally as well as physically.

“Against Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Reserves FA Cup, I sprinted across the pitch and my ankle just completely gave way,” she revealed.

“I heard the crack and just knew it was something bad. Going through this was a huge challenge. Any injury is very difficult I guess, that feeling of not knowing when you’ll be ready again and that fear of coming back too early.

“Being out for nine months was extremely hard, but I knew I had the right people around me at the time, so I could get through it. I definitely thank them.”

Dean suffered another rude awakening when Millwall bowed out of the Women’s FA Cup on Sunday, February 18.

Rianna Dean in pursuit for Millwall against Arsenal.

Despite the 1-0 defeat, the striker reserved praise for ex-teammate Jordan Nobbs, who has been one of the WSL 1 players of the season.

“In our recent meeting against Arsenal, her constant work rate and movement off the ball was amazing.”

Millwall are just three points adrift of WSL 2 leaders Doncaster Rovers Belles, having gone 17 games without defeat. The 19-year-old is confident that the Londoners can finish top this season but is also wary that the side don’t get over-complacent.

“There is definitely a growing confidence within the team. However, we know that we cannot get too complacent and that anything can happen.

 “We are just continuing to take one game at a time. There is no promotion this year, but we have not let that affect us. We’re doing everything we can to win the league.”

Thanks to Rianna Dean for speaking to The Sophist. Good luck to her and Millwall this season.

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