Casey’s dream­ing of Euro 2017 glory

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Tony Leighton

ES­TO­NIA’S English man­ager Keith Boanas is Casey Stoney’s great­est men­tor, a fa­ther fig­ure to the Eng­land cen­tral de­fender and the man who ef­fec­tively res­ur­rected her in­ter­na­tional ca­reer when she was at her low­est point.

But the 33-year-old’s strong feel­ings for her for­mer Charl­ton Ath­letic boss will go out of the win­dow for 90 min­utes in Tallinn to­mor­row, when she aims to hand Es­to­nia a crush­ing de­feat as Eng­land look to kick-start their Euro 2017 qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign with a win.

Af­ter col­lect­ing a bronze medal at the end of Eng­land’s last out­ing – July’s World Cup third place play-off against Ger­many – Stoney, 33, is in de­ter­mined mood as she be­gins the quest for Euro gold with what looks like a three-point gimme, against an Es­to­nia team that sit 72 places be­low Eng­land at 77th in the world rank­ings.

The Ar­se­nal star said: “You can’t re­ally com­pare a World Cup bronze medal match to play­ing Es­to­nia, but it’s an in­ter­na­tional game and ev­ery time you pull on that jersey you want to rep­re­sent your coun­try in the right way.

“Ev­ery game in this qual­i­fy­ing group is a po­ten­tial banana skin if you don’t pre­pare right, and I know that Keith is rel­ish­ing the chal­lenge. His team will be well or­gan­ised and he’ll def­i­nitely have his play­ers up for it.

“But we want to make sure we win this group in a way that we can send a mes­sage, so the aim is to con­tinue the form we showed in the World Cup and get the job done in ev­ery group game, start­ing with this one.”

De­ter­mined

Stoney will win her 123rd Eng­land cap in Tallinn, this af­ter she al­most quit the in­ter­na­tional scene when dis­il­lu­sioned with the na­tional team’s set-up in 2005.

Boanas – un­der whom she played for five years at Charl­ton – came to the res­cue. “I didn’t want to play in­ter­na­tional football any­more,” re­called Stoney, “and he was the one who re­ally be­lieved in me.

“He said to me, ‘Right now you feel aw­ful, but I be­lieve you’ll be Eng­land cap­tain one day’. At the time I couldn’t be­lieve him, but it came true. “He’s been a great tower of strength for me, al­most like a fa­ther fig­ure; a men­tor.

“He’s had a mas­sive im­pact on my ca­reer. I’ve got so much re­spect for him, and he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with.”

For Stoney and her col­leagues, to­mor­row’s match is the start of a jour­ney that they all hope will end in Eng­land’s first ever ma­jor tour­na­ment tri­umph in the fi­nal of the Euro 2017 Cham­pi­onships in the Nether­lands.

And though when the tour­na­ment comes around she will be 35 – an age by which many play­ers have hung up their boots – she aims to be well and truly in­volved. Hav­ing col­lected sil­ver at Euro 2009 – when Eng­land lost the fi­nal to Ger­many – and bronze at this year’s World Cup in Canada, she wants des­per­ately to com­plete the set with a gold. And she be­lieves that Eng­land can do it.

Stoney is by some dis­tance the old­est player in the cur­rent squad, but said de­fi­antly: “I’ve got ab­so­lutely no in­ten­tion of re­tir­ing yet. I want to re­tire hav­ing won some­thing with Eng­land – and I be­lieve that in 2017 we’ve got the best op­por­tu­nity we’ve ever had to do that.”

PIC­TURE: The FA

ENG­LAND’S ROCK: Casey Stoney cred­its Keith Boanas, inset, with sav­ing her Eng­land ca­reer

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