Pompey's Hillier basking in finest football achievement
Gemma Hillier toasted England Ladies' Euro Beach Soccer Cup triumph and revealed: This is my proudest football achievement.
The Fareham Academy PE teacher won the golden boot as the Three Lionesses side triumphed in all three matches on the road to success in Nazaré, Portugal.
Hillier was one of four Pompey Ladies in the squad – alongside Nadine Bazan, Katie James and Shannon Sievwright, while former manager Perry Northeast took charge.
On their way to the title, England beat Spain and the Netherlands in group A before defeating Switzerland 4-3 in the final.
Hillier, 29, revealed confidence in the England camp was high heading to Portugal after Pompey Beach Soccer finished second in the Euro Winners Cup last month.
And the Lee-on-the-Solent ace is still celebrating the achievement.
‘I literally cannot believe it – it’s just incredible,’ Hillier said.
‘Among my football achievements, it definitely ranks as number one – it was the best weekend of my life.
‘I’m really proud and you see could see what it meant to us from our celebrations when we won it.
‘You believe you can go all the way, although you don’t expect it is going to happen.
‘The group we got drawn in was really tough but our aim was always to get to the final.
‘Playing two games in one day against Spain and the Netherlands was tough.
‘We had to do the same last year. In the second game against Greece, we didn’t cope.
‘To ensure we didn’t make the same mistakes, we had worked hard on our fitness.
‘When we won the tournament, we were really relieved because we have come close to beating Switzerland before but never done it. They almost came back towards the end but luckily enough we held out and really grafted to maintain our advantage.
‘It was an incredible feeling to get over the line.’
Hillier was in rampant form in front of goal – netting five goals.
She finished with as the tournament’s leading scorer after hitting the target in all three matches.
However, Hillier was quick to pay tribute to her team-mates after receiving the golden boot award.
She added: ‘I’m not usually one to score a lot of goals but I’d been working hard on my finishing and keeping cool in front of goal.
‘I couldn’t have done it without the rest of my team as they set me up with the opportunities.
‘We all worked for each other and had to trust each other.
‘It makes it more special when you win with your friends.
‘The only thing that could top this achievement is if we retained out title next year.’