After leading Celtic to Under 17 Scottish Cup glory and earning 18 caps for Scotland at Under 15 and 17 level, Leigh Nicol (pictured, right) has every right to be known as one of the brightest young players in the United Kingdom. Leigh captained the Hoops at Under 15s and 17s (and Motherwell before that) and has earned herself a reputation as a hard working young woman doing whatever she could to push herself to the top of the women's game. Leigh is currently playing for the Celtic Development Squad, the bridge between girls' football and the first team, in the First Division.
After missing out on a place at the Scottish Development Academy, Leigh was unsure where her future in the game was. Her father, Duncan Nicol told us that Celtic couldn't take her any further and applying to play at Britain's biggest women's club, Arsenal was her only option.
He said: 'After missing out on the Scottish FA National Performance Centre, Leigh was left not knowing where to go next. She even contemplated quitting the game before we sat down and discussed what her options were. We decided to apply for a trial with Arsenal, and after reading her CV Leigh was invited down to London for a trial.
'Celtic have the best girls' academy in Scotland, and they have been great to Leigh, but there is no Academy option where she can get education on top of her football. Leigh is one of only three players outwith the Arsenal system who have been offered a place in the London club's prestigious academy, and funding is the only obstacle blocking this opportunity - £11,000 over the two year period.'
Leigh is ineligible for funding from the English student awards agency as they require students to have lived in England for a minimum of three years. The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (commonly known as SAAS) are unable to fund Leigh as she is attending college rather than university.
Arsenal are at the top of the women's game and joining the Academy would be an invaluable leap towards the level of Leigh's role model - Arsenal, Scotland and Team GB star Kim Little (pictured, right).