A young woman from Whalley has shared her inspiring story of how watching the Women’s Euros from the hospital bed helped her overcome her anorexia.

Maddie Blackburn, 23, started playing football when she was six years old.

At nine, she was selected as a striker to play at Blackburn Rovers Centre of Excellence and then moved to Burnley FC a few years later.

At 16, Maddie joined the Bolton under 17s team but quit the sport shortly after, due to being smaller than the other footballers and feeling like she couldn’t compete.

Lancashire Telegraph: Maddie Blackburn for playing for Blackburn Rovers FC U10sMaddie Blackburn for playing for Blackburn Rovers FC U10s (Image: Maddie Blackburn)

Maddie said she was always wary of what she eat, but this worsened during the pandemic.

She said: “The lockdown made me feel out of control, and the only thing I felt I could control was my eating.

“My mum was a key worker so I was alone in the house a lot which meant I would over exercise and under-eat.”

When she started losing a lot of weight, Maddie’s mum took her to the doctor and she was admitted to Cheadle Royal Hospital’s eating disorder unit when she was 19.

Maddie was in hospital for six months during the lockdown. She said: “I was shocked because it all happened so quickly.

"The first few months I was in, I was only allowed to see mum through window for about 10 minutes because of covid restrictions.

"That took its toll on me because I was trapped somewhere you couldn’t leave.”

Her battle with anorexia persisted and she relapsed after the initial discharge.

It was during her second stay in the hospital that Maddie found solace and inspiration in the Women's European Championships in 2022.

England's Lionesses stormed to glory in the final at Wembley, winning the nation's first major trophy since 1966.

Describing the life-changing moment, Maddie said: “I was very ill when I was watching the Euros.

"I didn’t really understand what was going on but watching the Lionesses made me so proud that women’s football was starting to get the recognition it deserves.

“It wasn’t really a big thing when I was younger so it was just incredible to watch. That's when I decided I wanted things to change, I wanted to get better and play again. It was like a switch in my brain.

“The Lionesses have helped me regain my health and return to the pitch. Football is a powerful sport and the Lionesses have touched lives far beyond the pitch.”

Witnessing England star Alessia Russo talk about reaching a ‘low point’ in her relationship with food also helped Maddie.

The star striker opened up earlier this year about battles with 'wanting to be skinny' and the impact it had on her performance, and how she learned to embrace the need to eat enough food and 'wanting to be strong' instead.

She said: “Alessia Russo opened up about food and body image in lockdown, and even she said she couldn’t compete after lockdown.

“I think it’s missed a lot how mental health can affect the game. After I heard about her story, I thought if she can open up and I can, people should also open up."

Maddie has applied to study sports science at university and has recently just started training again.

She said: “My goal is to eventually play at the level I was a few years ago. I’ve still got some weight to gain but I’m in a way better position that I was last year.”

A spokesperson for the Lionesses: “We’re grateful to Maddie for sharing her story and pleased to hear she is better and enjoying playing football again.

“We’re proud of our achievements on the pitch but it’s stories like this, which really inspire us.

"To make a positive impact on people’s lives is the most powerful thing you can hope to do.

“We wish Maddie the very best on her football journey and hope her strength and resilience, and the courage to talk openly also encourages others going through a difficult time to seek support.”