SURROUNDED by the entire team of AFC Bournemouth players, Sophie Cook's heart raced.

The 48-year-old feared a backlash as she started a new season as herself - after finishing the last season as Steve.

However, the first transgender woman in UK football has spoken of her pride of being "totally accepted" by players and fans after decades of feeling trapped in the wrong body.

As well as taking female hormones, Sophie, a twice married dad-of-three, lost five stone and got hair extensions.

The club’s official photographer, had known she was a woman since she was a child.

With Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe and chairman Jeff Mostyn, Sophie broke the news to her team.

She said: "Living with the burden any longer would have killed me, so it was time to be true to myself. I couldn't keep living in the shadows.

"I had to tell the guys.

"I was living in Brighton and had hair extensions. It wasn't as if I could go back to Bournemouth, take my wig off and pretend I was still Steve. I was Sophie.

She added: "The assistant manager called the players together and said: 'You'll probably notice our photographer has changed a little from last season, lost a bit of weight, and grown her hair out a bit. I'd like you all to meet Sophie.'

"I had no idea how they would react but suddenly the captain started clapping and the rest of the boys joined in.

"I haven't looked back. It feels amazing."

Sophie began questioning her identity when she was a child and recalls trying on her mum’s tight-fitting Olivia Newton-John Spandex trousers in private as a teen.

But it was when she was working at an away game in Leeds in January that "a switch suddenly went" and she realised she could no longer live as a man.

Married and with three children, she told her family she was transgender before going to her GP for a referral to a specialist clinic in London.

The pair, who separated this year, planned to tell their 11-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son - now 12 and 15 - broke the news when Caitlyn Jenner's transition hit headlines.

Sophie, said: "The first time my son met Sophie he said outright: 'You look weird' and one time told the next door neighbours: 'My daddy is a lady'.

"All my daughter wants to do is go make up shopping together and she even said to me once: 'You're my hero. Steve was great but Sophie is better'.

Sophie, a former RAF jet engine technician, has suffered verbal abuse walking down the street but is happy to be accepted in the masculine sport.

She said: "For a transgender woman to walk out on a football pitch on a packed-out match day for a Premier League football club is a massive deal.

"Some of my friends feared all sorts of chants or abuse shouted at me.

"It hasn't been like that at all though and I've been totally accepted by the players and fans and I am so grateful to finally just be me."

Sophie, who now tours the country giving talks about conquering the fear of change, said: "The most amazing thing is I am so happy I never realised it was possible to be this happy."

Tickets are now on sale for Sophie’s motivational talk Grab Life by the Balls in Bournemouth on Thursday, January 14 at 7.30pm. For more information go to