Casey’s dreaming of Euro 2017 glory
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.”
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.”
ENGLAND’S ROCK: Casey Stoney credits Keith Boanas, inset, with saving her England career