Tracey Neville and Phil Neville were both born on 21 January 1977 and the twins' personalities are undeniably similar.

While both would be welcomed into the world by loving parents and an older brother, Gary Neville, who was born two years earlier, they would actually walk entirely different paths to the pinnacle of their respective sports, netball and football.

Neville wasn't aware of what she would soon encounter. Her parents had created an equal environment at home.

She enjoyed healthy competition with Phil and Gary across a breadth of different sports growing up and all three children would eventually go on to enjoy great success, but for Tracey, there were obstacles to overcome that her brothers didn't have to face.

The world had yet to change.

"I have to admit, when I was younger, I never thought there was inequality in sport. My Mum and Dad did really well in enabling us to have opportunities in whatever we wanted to do," Neville tells the Manchester Evening News.

"However, I did know that netball was always predominantly a women’s sport and football was always a men’s sport.

"At primary school, I was an alright footballer and when I asked to join in - because that was something I did all the time at home - I remember my PE teacher saying to me ‘you can’t join in with the football, football’s not for girls.

Tracey Neville is interviewed on Sky Sports

"People ask me would I have been a footballer? I don’t think I actually would have because those environments were really intimidating back then and they weren’t any females present in those environments.

"There weren’t female role models, either. Everyone on TV was male, all the pundits were male, all the players were male."

Although Britain was governed by a female Prime Minister throughout Neville's most formative years, institutional sexism remained a problem. As all three of the Neville children began to grow up, Phil and Gary signed professional contracts with Manchester United while Tracey pursued her career in netball. "I really had a difficult journey. I had to pay to play netball," Neville recalls.

"I had to pay to play at international level, we didn’t get the opportunities, there weren’t crowds within our venues, so if you talk about equal opportunities, it was very difficult. We had lots of girls within my team - it happens even now - where they’re holding full-time jobs as well as trying to play in a semi-professional environment and train like elite athletes.

"The inequalities are still there, they’re probably not as apparent now as they were back then."

Those obstacles wouldn't be enough to stifle Neville's rise. She began her career at YWCA Bury in Greater Manchester and progressed to represent England at under-18 and under-21 levels before she eventually made her full senior debut for her nation.

Neville won go on to earn 81 caps for England between 1992-2008 and she played an instrumental role in winning England's first netball medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, which was arguably the pinnacle of her playing career.

Tracey Neville playing for England in New Zealand in 2003

In the same year, her brothers won the Premier League title with United and, while that was the end result for all three children who had refused to relent in the pursuit of their respective sporting careers, Neville admits that she had to work harder for it.

"Of course I had to work harder, I had to do my training before and after work," Neville recalls.

"Financially I was still trying to earn an income, I was one of the first athletes to actually get on the Sport England funding, but again, that was only £742 per month. Did they work hard? They worked extremely hard to get to where they are, but what I had to do, I had to have a lot of add on to that. But when I look back over that now, that actually benefited me hugely mentally and physically.

"If all my life had just been about netball, I think I would have really suffered mentally and I really needed that avenue, to mix into different environments, when things weren’t going well, I really needed something else to take that pressure away from me."

Neville's hard work and determination was providing her with exciting opportunities and led her to Australia playing for the Adelaide Thunderbirds and for Contax - Neville won silverware at the latter. "Tracey was very popular with fellow players and supporters, and she brought a new professionalism and enthusiasm to the club," a dated Contax report claims

Neville returned to British shores and had spells with Northern Thunder and Leeds Carnegie before sustaining a serious knee injury in 2004. Although Neville made a comeback during the 2006/07 season, she eventually decided to put her playing days behind her.

Tracey Neville receives her MBE

After impressing in her first coaching positions with Team Northumbria and Manchester Thunder, Neville would become England's head coach in 2015. She had unfinished business at international level and she was keen to take the sport into a new era while her vast knowledge and experience made her an invaluable asset on and off the court.

She didn't need long to make an impact, either. England won bronze at the 2015 Netball World Cup and Neville was awarded an MBE at the end of the year for her services to netball, however, her crowning moment would come at the 2018 Commonwealth Games when she inspired England to create history.

The Roses reached their first Commonwealth final that year and they faced Australia on the Gold Coast in the final. England's history-making triumph to win gold had been a product of Neville's vision for netball and her determination to overcome obstacles.

"When I was the Roses coach, the first thing I wanted to do, the biggest change I wanted to make, along with my bosses, was that we wanted to try to professionalise the sport and get girls on central contracts," Neville refects.

England head coach Tracey Neville reacts during the 2015 Netball World Cup match between England and Jamaica

"If you want to win a gold medal, you need to be able to compete against the people you’re up against. In Australia and New Zealand, there were girls out there that were making lives for themselves.

"We had a small percentage of our players out there and when they came home, they wanted to come back to a professional environment where they got the top class multidisciplinary team, top-class coaching, they weren't trying to find jobs."

Although Neville delivered gold for England and took the country's netball to places that had never been seen before, her legacy goes well beyond results on the court. When Neville left England after the 2019 Netball World Cup, she left after modernising the sport.

Despite Neville's influence and resilience, there is still plenty of work to do in netball and in wider society, so what can be done to further strive towards equality? "I think some of these sports need to look at their sister sports," Neville says.

"Facilities are a huge problem across all women’s sports, I don’t think we can say that women’s football are getting what their male counterparts are. I think there’s a huge problem. We don’t have our own venue and we don’t have our own place that’s ours.

"Somewhere that we can train any time we want, we don’t have a place where all of our team can go into and access training, go to the post or practice their particular skill level, we don’t have a home for Manchester Thunder.

"We share that home with a lot of other sports and a lot of other teams. That is a difficulty across the whole board and we’re still paying for that. We still have to fight to get into those venues, particularly for home matches.

"We’re fighting with a lot of people and that’s a real sad thing. I’d love a home for netball, I’d really love that."

Tracey Neville says goodbye to England at the 2019 Netball World Cup

Neville, currently Performance Operations Director at Manchester Thunder, shouldn't have to fight. She's already had to fight her whole career against equality and that's not right, but she's confident that change is now here and here to stay for that matter.

"I look at it myself, I’ve had some real pleasures in my career and I’ve had some real downs," Neville reflects.

"If I can be a role model to one person out there then I feel that I've done my job as an England player and as an England coach. I think when I look back, my role model was my mum because I really struggled to have anyone that I could really look up to on the TV. There were never female sports out there.

"I think it’s a new era and once it becomes the norm, once it becomes more visual, I think people will accept that. Now, when I look at the TV, I don't see the odd female as a pundit. I accept that they’re in the environment and I look at them as football specialists and I think that’s how we should start visualising that."

Future generations of young girls shouldn't have to fight because of the work of those before them. Neville has been part of that progress and yet she was typically modest when asked how she would like to be remembered:

"As someone who made a difference to netball and as someone who took it into the professional game."

Netball’s Rise Again Festival

Netball’s Rise Again Festival is back and it’s bigger and better than ever before this year. Fans will see every Vitality Netball Super League team take to the courts in Manchester, but in a Netballing first, they’ll also be joined by two elite men’s teams.

You can buy tickets for the event here.

You can book your live stream of the event here.

This national pre-season event is live at Belle Vue in Manchester on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th December.