West Brom and Hartpury prospect Jess Hood delighted after England colleges call

Jess Hood has admitted she was left in shock after being called up to England Universities sport.

The West Bromwich Albion development team captain is a student at Hartpury, where she is studying teaching physical education in school sport. “When I got the news, I couldn’t believe it,” Hood said.

“I immediately called my family as they have been supporting me since I first kicked a ball. I am still in shock now and had the privilege of being able to represent the colleges of England for two years, so going to universities in England is a really exciting opportunity for me and my playing career.

Attacking midfielder Hood started at grassroots club Westbury Celtic based in Droitwich, playing in an otherwise all-male side. She joined regional talent club West Brom academy aged 11 and worked her way up to captain the Under-16s, earning call-ups for numerous regional training camps in England along the way.

After breaking into the development squad, Hood spent a season with Cheltenham Town Ladies in a bid to develop his senior first-team experience, but his time with the Robins was heavily impacted by Covid. She returned to West Brom last summer, receiving the armband and it has been a successful 2021/22 campaign for her and the team.

“This season with the girls has been amazing,” she said. “After losing confidence in my ability as a footballer and struggling mentally throughout Covid, being able to return to my home club where I learned a lot about football was good.

“Joining the girls and getting to know new players throughout pre-season was really exciting and being offered the captaincy again was a real honour. Starting the season was really exciting, seeing what group of players talented I played.

West Brom reached the final of the National Women’s Reserve Cup, which had not been reached for over a decade. “If we continue our performances, we aim to finish in the top three, or potentially second in the league,” she said. “For me, just seeing those stats made being captain of this girl group that much more special.”

Jess Hood

Hood, who turns 19 on April 11, aspires to reach the highest level. “My main goal is to become a professional footballer,” she said. “It’s what I dreamed of doing since I was a little girl. The struggle for me has always been knowing the most successful path to give myself the best chance and I know that working hard on and off the pitch will help achieve that result.

Hood studied for a Level 3 Sport and Excellence Diploma at Hartpury before progressing to start his degree. “Hartpury has been a big factor in my development and the facilities are second to none,” she said.

“The pitches we play on, the gym and the recovery rooms are all like an elite environment that fully supports us in our performance and development in the sports we choose. Being here has allowed me to strengthen areas of my game that I didn’t know might be affected.

“Coming from college I hadn’t realized how much S&C and recovery really impact your performance and Hartpury have been overwhelmingly supportive of me learning how to do it. The coaches I’ve been blessed with to work have succeeded themselves and that has also been a source of inspiration.

Alongside her university work, Hood trains every day, either with West Brom or Hartpury, meaning she is already full-time, also playing for the university’s futsal team. She referees locally on Saturday mornings, helping the younger age groups.