Esme Morgan has a habit of improving the standards of those around her.
At 20 years old she is already a key figure in the Manchester City defence, and is known for her leadership credentials.
The Sheffield-born footballer played for England at all age group levels - often as captain - and received her first call-up to train with the senior national team in 2020.
With such a glittering CV, you’d think her life was dedicated to sport and nothing else. But Morgan is so much more than that.
When she isn’t using her musical skills to alleviate tensions caused by the coronavirus lockdown (more on that later), she works as a patron for The Children’s Hospital Charity, raising funds for vital equipment.
As Manchester City chase their first Women’s Super League title since 2016, Olympic Channel sat down with Morgan to find out more about her mesmeric rise on the pitch, and selfless work off it.
School of hard knocks
Growing up in Sheffield as a football-obsessed kid, Morgan struggled to find other girls to play with.
“I played with my local boys' team until I turned 15,” she told Olympic Channel.
“Playing with the boys toughens you up because if they can stick a tough tackle on you, they will. I don't think they ever like being shown up by a girl." - Emse Morgan to Olympic Channel
“I think it probably teaches you a lot about the mental side of the game, like speed of thought and reading the game, because when you reach a certain age, you can't compete with the boys physically.
“But I really like the physical aspect of a game. I think when you can get into a good battle with your direct opponent, it's always fun to see who can come out on top.”
Her choice of position these days in the heart of defence starts to make sense.
Learning about women’s football
Given her football upbringing playing against boys, Morgan never thought that one day she could play professionally for a women’s team.
“I wasn't aware of women's football at all until about the London 2012 Olympics,” Morgan revealed.
“It wasn't really something that was in the forefront of my mind while I was playing in junior boys' football teams.”
But that all changed when she found out that Manchester City had a girls' U15 team.
Despite coming from Sheffield, she was an ardent Blues fan, and the opportunity was a dream come true.
After going for trials, she was quickly snapped up and two years later made her first-team debut aged 16.
Training on a daily basis with the likes of seasoned internationals like Ellen White, Keira Walsh and captain Steph Houghton took Morgan’s game to a new level.
It wasn’t long until she was picked up by the England coaches.
The young star was capped for the national team at U17, U19 and U21 levels, and often given the captain’s armband.
“I think leadership is something that's always been ingrained in me and I've always had. I don't think it’s necessarily something you can teach someone." - Esme Morgan
“My personality probably lends itself to it in terms of looking out for others and trying to help the team in any way I can.
After receiving her first call-up to train with the senior national team in 2020, Morgan hasn't totally ruled out the chances of a call-up to Great Britain's squad for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.
"I think that would be absolutely incredible," she said.
"If I'm being realistic, it might be a stretch too far for me at this point and I'm maybe looking at the Paris 2024 Olympics as a more of a realistic goal. But I know that four training players will go as standby players. If the plan is for them to be young players, that's a slight opening for me.
"Nevertheless, I'd certainly be watching it with a desire to be a part of it in the future and representing Team GB at the Olympics would be a dream."
After the Olympics were postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Morgan, like all professional athletes, had a lot of extra time on her hands.
With anxiety and tension gripping the nation, she decided to try and bring a much needed smile to her friends and followers over social media.
The full-back was taught the piano by the father of a host family she was living with at the start of her City career.
Alongside her flat-mate and fellow City player Lauren Hemp, Morgan posted a poll on Twitter asking if anyone would be interested in watching the duo perform a ‘concert’.
Much to her surprise, the answer was a resounding yes.
“About ten minutes after putting the Twitter poll out, 95% of people said ‘yes’, so we had to do it!”
The pair put on a light-hearted musical medley that included renditions of Stand By Me and Bohemian Rhapsody.
"It was nerve-racking but I think it turned out well and gave some people a laugh," Morgan beamed.
Changing children’s lives
Perhaps the greatest example of Morgan trying to improve the lives of those around her, however, is in her role a patron for The Children’s Hospital Charity in Sheffield.
Growing up, the brave defender was no stranger to sports injuries, and the organisation supported her rehabilitation on two occasions.
The amazing care she received made the footballer want to give back. Today, she plays a vital role in raising funds for the charity, who are hoping to build a helipad for children to be airlifted in for serious injuries, as well as a leukaemia ward.
“A lot of children have a lot more severe problems and illnesses than I had,” she said.
“It's important to me that they are given the same opportunities to recover as I had, achieve what they want to do in life, and follow their dreams as well.”
Athlete, philanthropist, and part-time musician, Morgan is a shining ray of positivity in football.
With Manchester City in a rich vein of form, and determined to snap their run of three-consecutive Women's Super League runners-up finishes, they will be looking to harness every ounce of her golden touch.