With Euro 2017 set to kick off in just over a month in the Netherlands, Michelle Owen considers whether the decision to select the Lionesses squad months early was the best move.
Cast your mind back two summers to when the nation was gripped by our Lionesses reaching the World Cup semi finals. They performed fantastically only to be dealt the cruellest of blows when an own goal from Laura Bassett saw them lose out on a final spot to Japan. They finished third after beating Germany in a third place decider and the campaign bought women’s football to the attention of a nation.
I have been covering some of the WSL1 Spring Series for the BBC’s Women’s Football Show. The attendances have been mixed, from a few hundred to over one thousand at the games I have been at. There is a massive gap in standard between the likes of part time Yeovil Town and Manchester City, the score lines also reflect this. The coverage has been late at night, and the WSL website is difficult to navigate. A good campaign could give another much needed boost to women’s football in the UK and propel it into the spotlight again. Scotland have also qualified and are in the same group as England. Unlike England manager Mark Sampson, Scotland coach Anna Signeul has yet to choose her final squad for the Euros – which Wales and Northern Ireland failed to qualify for.
Mark Sampson chose his squad very early, almost 15 weeks before the tournament starts. Usually the end of a domestic season before a major tournament sparks debate about who should be picked but Sampson did not even wait to see the form of the players during the spring series. It’s a decision I believe he may regret, he is missing some players who have performed brilliantly in the mini competition.
Arsenal forward Danielle Carter has been in electric form. I watched her a couple of times, she played with bags of confidence and the goals and assists looked effortless. I find her omission baffling as she has scored six times in three senior England appearances and her domestic form hasn’t faltered, yet she does not appear to be in Sampson’s plans.
One of the stars of the World Cup 2015 campaign was Laura Bassett. She was named in the squad before her club Notts County folded. She has not played any league football but is on the plane to the Netherlands. Notts County players and England internationals Carly Telford, Jade Moore and Jo Potter all quickly found new clubs after being put in such a horrible situation, but Bassett chose to stay as a free agent, she’s been training hard but has no game time under her belt in 2017 and is heading to play in a major tournament – would that happen in the men’s game? I am not doubting her ability, she definitely is one of the best defenders around, but I can imagine if you’ve played a solid season in the WSL1 and you haven’t been picked you would be pretty miffed!
Another player who may feel hard done by is Keira Walsh. She played for the England U23 side but is yet to make her senior debut. The 20-year-old has been a key player for Manchester City and was named player of the match in their FA Cup final triumph over Birmingham City. Walsh can take a small bit of comfort from the fact that no players under the age of 23 have been picked; she is just 20 and will surely be involved in future. It would seem with an average squad age of 28 Sampson prefers experience over youth. Indeed the PFA Women’s Young Player of the year award went to Birmingham’s Jess Carter, but she is also left out of the squad.
Mark Sampson has said he and the squad are enjoying the expectations of fans. The squad has been pretty much the same over the past couple of years, that bond could be the key to success, but will not picking based on form come back to sting him.
Follow Michelle on Twitter at @MichelleOwen7