Image source, Family photoImage caption,
Maddy Cusack, shown here at her sister's graduation, was the second eldest of four children
By Caroline Lowbridge & Graham Satchell
The mother of footballer Maddy Cusack, who died at the age of 27, has said the pressures faced by female footballers are "way too much".
Maddy, who played for Sheffield United, was found dead at her home in Derbyshire two months ago.
Her family say the club has agreed to a full external inquiry into the events leading up to the midfielder's death.
The club told the BBC it could not confirm or deny an investigation was happening.
Maddy's family said she had no longstanding mental health issues but was facing a number of pressures in the months before she died, including financial pressures.
As well as playing for Sheffield United in the Women's Championship - the second tier of women's football - Maddy worked in the club's office as a marketing executive, and her family said she had to do two jobs to make ends meet.
"Last year their players were part-time, which means that they all had full-time jobs and trained three times a week, played on a Sunday, often travelled on a Saturday to play on a Sunday, for a minimal amount of money," said her mother, Deborah Cusack.
"I think Madeleine was on £6,000 a year last year to play football. So these girls are having to juggle two jobs, they're having to train and behave like male athletes for a miniscule of the amount of money they get. It's too much, the pressures are way too much."
Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption,
Maddy Cusack had played for Sheffield United since 2019
Maddy had played for the side since 2019 and last season became the first player to make 100 appearances for Sheffield United Women.
Her mother said her love of the sport began when she was only 18 months old, when she kicked her first ever football on the beach in Mablethorpe.
Her family said they had been struggling to understand her death. They said Maddy was at her happiest until Christmas last year, but everything changed from February.
She was found dead by her father at her home in Horsley on 20 September.
Her mother said: "She worried about her career in football, because football to her was everything. So to have that threatened in any way, shape or form, hurt.
"Her spirit was broken, that's the best way that I can describe it to you."
Image source, PA MediaImage caption,
Maddy Cusack's mother and sister took part in a memorial at Bramall Lane four days after her death
The club said in a statement to the BBC: "Sheffield United is in regular communication with the Cusack family and have offered full support following the tragic passing of Maddy."
Her family has now set up the Maddy Cusack Foundation and are hoping to give football boots to young girls who want to play the game.
"For Madeleine every Christmas we had to have a ball under the Christmas tree and every year she had a brand new pair of boots," said her mother.
"You know football boots, they're not the most inexpensive thing to buy and if we can possibly provide some young girls with them to help them on their way Maddy would have loved that, so that's what we'd like to do."
Image source, Family photoImage caption,
Maddy's brother said she "loved her family to bits"
Madeleine was the second eldest of four children. Her brother was born only 11 months before her, and she also had two younger sisters.
One of her sisters, Felicia Cusack, said: "She was a role model; she was very inspiring, and I always looked up to her.
"I'd go to all Maddy's games and watch every Sunday. I'd go along to training whether it was Leicester or Aston Villa or wherever she played. I'd go with Dad."
Olivia Cusack, her other sister, said: "It's completely knocked me. Obviously growing up with somebody so close you envision a lot of your life with them. You don't ever envision it without them."
Her brother, Richard Cusack, said: "She was a happy person. She was very proud to be with her family, she loved her family to bits, we loved her."