Casey Stoney, Alex Scott & Laura Bassett discuss Euro 2017

Between them, defenders Casey Stoney, Laura Bassett and Alex Scott have 326 England caps and a combined 16 appearances in major finals. When the finals come around in July they will be 35, 33 and 32 respectively and could all be embarking on their final tournaments with their country.

So, surely no nerves when it comes to the mere formality of squad announcement day, right?

“No, it’s an absolute relief – more so now than ever before,” said Stoney. “If you’d said two and a half years ago I’d be involved in Euro 2017 I’d have said there was a slim chance.

“I hadn’t played too much under Mark [Sampson] but I’ve worked really hard and had a good couple of seasons at Arsenal in order to be here now.”

It was a sentiment very much echoed by former Arsenal team mate Alex Scott. “It’s just absolute relief! I got the email on Friday and then a call from Mark and I just breathed a big sigh of relief.

“The competition for places is so fierce so that feeling never gets old because you’re always nervous. At times in my career, I’ve been number one choice but I was always pushed so I was never complacent and I’m sure Lucy [Bronze] is the same.”

She added, “Everyone’s always after your place. You speak to some people and they tell you you’ll be in the squad but I’ve never felt like that and when you do, you won’t be selected.”

All three played key parts in the England squad that left Canada two years ago with a bronze medal and Stoney believes that success “broke down a lot of barriers” in allowing the squad to believe they can achieve more.

“It’s not just the taste of success but the belief it gives you,” she said. “We won our very first knockout game, we beat Germany and we looked each other in the eyes and said ‘we can do this.’ You need a little bit of luck – there’s an element of expectation now but I’m excited to try and change the game for the next generation and the generation after that.”

The veteran defender also believes the fact the squad isn’t too dissimilar to the one that flew to Toronto could be an advantage when things get tough.

“We know each other so well. We know who reacts to what and we know we can have difficult conversations.

“We know who needs a kick up the backside or who needs an arm around the shoulder. We’ll have ups and downs but we’re in a good position to deal with it.”

If there’s one player who knows what it’s like to need an arm around the shoulder, it’s Laura Bassett. The centre back scored the cruel own goal which eliminated England from the 2015 World Cup in the final minutes against Japan and the 33-year-old says the team will be there for each other once again.

“There are ups and downs as we all know all too well,” said Bassett. “You’re away from home for a hell of a long time and when people are down we need each other.

“If people aren’t playing well or are nervous, we’ll rely on each other and you can see how together we are. We’ve shared so many happy memories and unfortunately some disappointing ones too.”

On the flip side, full back Scott knows exactly what it’s like to be on the other end of those emotions, scoring the winner for Arsenal in the Champions League final against Umea IK back in 2007.

Having won everything there is to win during her time with the Gunners, Scott goes to her seventh major tournament for England looking for her first triumph.

“We go into tournaments believing,” said Scott. “In some ways, the European Championships are harder – European teams are harder to break down. But we’ve all gone through a lot to get here. We know each other’s stories and we’re all going to go through this together.”

Things haven’t been all plain sailing for the squad since returning from Canada. In the two years that have passed since the World Cup, England have faced their four major rivals for the tournament a combined eight times – scoring just twice.

But centre back duo Stoney and Bassett are hoping the continued hard work the players are putting in on and off the pitch will pay dividends when they inevitably meet their foes again this summer.

“I’m a big believer [that] hard work pays off because it’s so true,” said Stoney. “I work hard every single day to be in this position and to go and do something special.

“I don’t want any regrets in my career and whilst not everything’s under my control, I do what I can – and I can sit and think I’ve earned this chance.”

Bassett added, “As a squad we’ve aimed to be the best learners. We adapt and evolve throughout the games. We change personnel, tactics, formations and we need to keep pushing that.

“In America, the USA didn’t know what we were going to do and if teams take 45 minutes to work out your plan then that’s great for us.”

So what of the timing of the announcement? With three months to go and an entire Spring Series plus the climax of the SSE Women’s FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, is it really a weight off the player’s minds?

Scott said, “It is a bit of a weight off the shoulders. Now we have our 23, it’s about us and yes people might think it’s weird but Mark has been with this team over three years now and he knows which players he wants. He’s going off the whole package. Everything he’s seen rather than one Spring Series because it’s a big step up.”

The early announcement also gives players the chance to arrange for their families to spend July and August in the Netherlands and with plenty of extra time to plan, will we see the two most popular children in the FA WSL at the England games?

“I hope so. The girls love having them around. When they’re not here, nobody wants to speak to me” Stoney laughed.

“I do hope they can come out. They weren’t in Canada and I found that really difficult. I’m hoping we can rent somewhere and they can come over, the happier you are, the more you contribute so as I found out I was in the squad I got researching!”

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  1. Offside Rule Podcast: Alex Scott, Laura Bassett & Casey Stoney – Rich LAVERTY

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