Gutsy Jessdeserves her England recall
YOU can tell my first England call-up was a long time ago – I found out by letter! In those days the news came through the post. I knew England scouts had been at Tranmere Rovers’ games, but I didn’t know who they’d been watching. My mum still has all my England letters in her loft. I couldn’t believe it when the first one came. Playing for my country had always been a dream.When teachers at school asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I’d say ‘I want to play for England’.They’d say,‘Good, but what else do you want to do?’ I got my first call-up when I was 16 and then made my debut against Germany in 1997 when I was 17.The game was at Preston so all my family and friends were there. I remember running around like a headless chicken at first because I was so excited to be on the pitch. Hope Powell, playing alongside me in midfield, said,‘Calm down! Just play your normal game and get on the ball’.
It’s such a buzz to be playing for your country. I remember thinking I want to do this more and more.
My mindset changed.What training do I need to do? What foods do I need to eat? As a young player playing for Tranmere, you pretty much trained twice a week and ate what you liked.
Suddenly I turned from a young girl just wanting to play football, to wanting to be more professional and as successful as I could be.
Obviously as time went on we found out we’d been called up by email. And I’m sure there were some happy people receiving emails this week after Mark Sampson announced his squad for the Euro qualifier in Estonia later this month.
Gilly Flaherty from Chelsea has been called up before, but she’s yet to make her debut. She’s a good, solid centre-half and it’s good to see her in line for a first appearance along with Arsenal’s Dani Carter. Izzy Christiansen from Manchester City has been selected for the first time. I’ve rated her for a long time.
There’s also a few recalls and one I’m most pleased about is Jess Clarke. I was gutted for her when she didn’t make theWorld Cup squad.
I spoke to her on the phone straight after the World Cup squad was announced. I said,‘I’m really sorry’. But she said,‘It’s alright. I’m going to work really hard and get myself back in’. That’s what she’s done.
Some people would have sulked after missing out. She didn’t and that’s the type of person Jess is. She didn’t do any media, didn’t take to twitter to whinge at anyone. She went on holiday, came back and focused on her football.
As soon as the league restarted she’s been scoring goals for Notts County. Even when they’ve lost she’s got on the scoresheet. It’s all credit to her – and to Mark for bringing her back. Jess showed the attitude you want to see from players. Gemma Davison is the same and I’m pleased to see her back in the squad.
I’ve always rated her. A lot of people have been asking,‘Why didn’t she go to the World Cup?’ I played with her for England but for some reason Hope Powell didn’t select her for many camps.
Mark hasn’t picked her for a competitive match until now and she deserves the call. Every time I’ve watched Chelsea she’s looked quality. She’s a player who loves to take players on and has pace to burn.She’s exciting to watch.
It shows if you’re playing well for your club, then you will be picked.That is how it should be. Players shouldn’t just be picked on their name.
Mark is very good at getting out and watching lots of different games. If he’s not there, then his assistant Marieanne Spacey will be.
International squads often need to be freshened up to keep progressing. If you’re being hyper-critical, he hasn’t won anything and Mark, I’m sure, will think the same.
Yes, they did fantastically well in Canada and better than anyone expected – probably even better than Mark expected himself.
But now they’ve got a real opportunity to go to the European Championships in Holland and actually win it.The first thing they need to do is qualify. Looking at the group, England should easily do that. Once they have, the focus turns to: Can we lift the trophy in 2017?
BOUNCING BACK: Notts County’s Jess Clarke has earned her England recall. Inset:Gilly Flaherty, top, and Izzy Christiansen
PRIDE: Sue Smith playing for England