England hero Alex Greenwood dating childhood sweetheart in ex-Premier League ace

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England defender Alex Greenwood will be supported in this weekend’s Women’s World Cup final by her partner, who made 35 appearances in the Premier League before retiring earlier this year. Greenwood played the entire 90 minutes as England beat Australia in the semi-finals on Wednesday morning, with goals coming from Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo.

Greenwood has also made the highest number of passes of any player at the Women’s World Cup to cement her status as one of England’s most important assets. She is being cheered on in Australia by her partner and former Sheffield United defender Jack O’Connell, who has travelled Down Under to back Greenwood from the stands.

The pair grew up together as childhood sweethearts on Merseyside, meeting each other at their sixth-form college in Bootle. O’Connell has been Greenwood’s biggest fan over the course of their relationship but is no longer playing football himself after being forced to retire earlier this year.

The 29-year-old made over 160 appearances for Sheffield United, forming a crucial part of their defence as they climbed from League One to the Premier League during his time at Bramall Lane. The latter years of his career were blighted by injury, though, forcing him to retire from the professional game earlier this summer.

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O’Connell had been out of action since 2020 due to constant knee issues and finally decided to hang up his boots in July after trying and failing to make a long-awaited comeback.

He confirmed the news via a statement on social media, which read: “This is a very difficult announcement for me to make, although Sheffield United fans will already know that for the past three seasons, I have been fighting to save my professional career.

“Today, I am announcing my retirement from football. I have put my heart and soul into this recovery since my knee problems began in June 2020 but this is a battle I cannot win.”

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O’Connell has spent the last few weeks in Australia to support Greenwood in her efforts to help England win their very first Women’s World Cup. He recently said that he has been taken aback by her growth as a player in recent years and will continue to support her as much as possible following his own retirement.

“[I’m] really proud of her, I’ve been there from the very start,” he told Sky Sports. “I used to go and watch Alex when she was 16, it’s unbelievable how far it’s grown now.

“I’m her biggest critic as well. The standard that she sets herself, she has more to come. I get goosebumps when I think about it but I think she’s one of the best centre-halves in the world and she still has gears to go through.”

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