It’s a bit strange to be talking about the Euros from the outside, because at the start of last season I’d targeted it as a tournament I wanted to make. But in September, just before I was supposed to head off to camp as part of Sarina Wiegman’s first England squad, I got injured in a WSL match against Tottenham.
As I sat there on the pitch knowing something wasn’t right in my leg, Lauren Hemp tried to reassure me I was going to be fine and it was nothing serious. Fast forward a few days and my surgeon told me I’d fractured my leg, would need surgery, and I’d be out for about a year.
It was difficult having the chance to make this summer’s squad snatched away from me, but it’s funny to look back to the start of my rehab, because in my head I was saying: ‘I’m going to be back in time for the Euros’, and I was telling everyone, completely choosing to ignore the timeframe that all the medical experts had given! It wasn’t until March the physios said to me that it was never realistic, but they didn’t want to dampen my enthusiasm!
They did eventually let me down gently…
Physically I feel completely back to normal, and I’m excited to be involved in the Euros in a different way and support the girls.
England have such an exciting team this summer because there’s a blend of successful senior players and players who have won things at youth level. I went to the Under 20 World Cup in 2018 with Chloe Kelly, Lauren Hemp, Alessia Russo, Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck, where we won a bronze medal – and carrying that positive experience from youth level into the seniors is so important.
That Under 20s tournament holds some of my favourite football memories because we just had this collective belief that we’d never be beaten down. I remember we were losing 1-0 in our final group game against Mexico; we weren’t playing particularly well, we weren’t creating anything, and to an outsider it looked like we were going out with a whimper. And at half time Alessia Russo was sat there and she just announced to the room: “I am so calm right now!”
And everyone looked round and was like: “you know what, me too.”
We had so much belief that we were going to come out of that difficult situation, and we went on to win 6-1. I get the vibe that this England team have the same mentality and unity; no matter what the circumstances, they’ll never be discouraged. They seem to play with boundless confidence; a sense that they truly believe they can beat anyone to win this tournament, and I believe they can too.
Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp both scored in our win against Mexico, and I’m blessed to watch them at Man City every week, but maybe not so blessed to have to defend against them on a daily basis!
Chloe ruptured her ACL a few months before I broke my leg, so was always slightly ahead of the curve of me with rehab. I remember during her first game back against West Ham, she went into a crunching tackle within 10 minutes of being on the pitch and I shouted at the TV: “YES Chlo!” – that is the fearless mentality you need to have.
Chloe’s so unpredictable and once she’s got a yard of space, her delivery into the box is so dangerous and so varied. She can whip it to the near post, which Ellen White is so good at attacking, but she’s also got a really nice floated ball to the back stick for Lauren to arrive late and get on the end of – Lauren is surprisingly good in the air for someone who’s so short.
In every team I’ve been in with Lauren she’s been the player who you think: she could win us this game on her own. It makes me laugh seeing her labelled as ‘one to watch’ or a ‘breakout star’ ahead of the Euros. I think: where on earth have you been for the past four years?!
Karen Bardsley once said: “where the hell would we be without Lauren Hemp?” It’s a fair comment because in times of need, we look to her for a bit of magic. When she gets on the ball you can hear an audible gasp or a murmur of ‘come on Lauren’, because there’s such a sense of anticipation that she’s going to create something.
She’s also really grounded, funny and dopey. I don’t think that will ever change, no matter what heights she reaches in the game, and I think that’s really special.
This team is stacked with talent across the pitch, and with those two shining on the wings in particular, facing England is a frightening prospect.