Carly Telford column: Life at Chelsea, Women’s Euros reflection and the Mark Sampson saga

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In Carly Telford’s latest column for The Offside Rule, the Chelsea goalkeeper reflects on the Women’s Euros and her recent time with the England Squad, Alex Scott’s retirement and the Mark Sampson saga. 

The Euros don’t even feel like they were this year, so much has gone on since then. The Russia game really was the first chance we had to speak about the Euros and what went wrong. When you’re knocked out, you sit in the changing rooms and you’re shocked, you’re disappointed and there’s tears.

It was 2am by the time we got back to our hotel and we were leaving at 11am. It was over just like that. Some girls were moving clubs, some of us had organised last-minute holidays before we had to be back with our club so we never really got a chance to go over everything.

We ate, breathed and drank football for two years and came away with nothing, that was the hardest part for us. We truly believed everything was falling into place, top teams were getting knocked out but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s all ifs, buts and maybes now but we didn’t perform on the night and fair play to the Dutch, they were very worthy winners.

After that, it was just about getting back down to it with Chelsea. The Swedes and Norwegians were back in a week before, Crystal [Dunn] was back from the USA and we were all looking back on how we’d all done and how the tournament had gone.

It was a long camp for one game when we joined up for Russia and we knew it was going to be because we had to go over the Euros. We spent the first week putting everything on the table and getting rid of the emotion and frustration that was still lingering. It was a good 10 days in that respect but it was obviously disrupted with what was going on in the background. We all knew stuff was going on but none of us knew what was going to happen after that camp.

Getting beat isn’t really the done thing for us anymore and that semi-final was very hard for us all to deal with. We’d never put that expectation on ourselves before or spoken out about the fact we felt we were favourites, you generally feel like you’ve let everyone down when you don’t reach those heights.

Me, Millie [Bright], Jill [Scott], Bass [Laura Bassett] and Kaz [Karen Carney] went on holiday to Marbella and we had three or four people come up to us before our flight saying well done and what not.

It was weird, we were surprised by that because we did feel there might be more of a backlash. I don’t know whether that’s just the women’s game or people have our backs a bit more, but we had some really positive feedback and that was really nice to know.

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We were briefed the day before the France quarter-final about what was going on. Mark [Sampson] sat us all down and told us something was potentially about to be released in the newspapers the day of the game.

We were told what it was about and that allegations had been made against Mark and members of the coaching staff, but we had a job to do and we had to crack on. We did that job against France very well and nothing did come out, so we figured it had been dealt with.

The next time we heard about anything was the build-up to the Russia camp. We were kept in the loop but we didn’t know a lot, the FA didn’t try and hide it from us but they wanted to allow us to concentrate on football and our job, I think it was more about protection.

I was driving back to London the next day when I heard on Radio 1 that Mark had been sacked. We did get an email but I was driving so I didn’t see that until I got home, and I think it was the same for a lot of the girls.

There was a lot of confusion, we’d had a perfect start against Russia and played the sort of football that people wanted to see less than 24 hours earlier. Perhaps we didn’t give that in the Euro’s, we moved away from the route one stuff and now we’re here in a completely different kind of place.

After that, it just spiralled out of control. The way it was dealt with from the powers above, the court hearings, now we’ve come to the stage where it is where it is and we don’t know where it’s going to go because it’s still rumbling on now.

I think the hardest thing has been not really knowing what has been going on. None of us could pick a side and I think people have wanted us to. I don’t think there was a problem – and I said this to Eni [Aluko] – with what was going on until Eni or Lianne [Sanderson] spoke about the integrity of the group and that we had no voice.

The players felt we weren’t like that, we’d created a culture that wasn’t forced. It wasn’t put upon us to be a certain way, we chose to be that way, we set our rules and how to behave. We’ve spent the past four years laying out the pathway for ourselves and the players coming through, it was a DNA that we’d created and we felt that would eventually make us a successful England team.

I don’t think we’ve ever tried to pick sides, we’ve only defended the group if anything. The Chelsea girls have sat down with Eni and Drew [Spence] and apologised for the celebrations that we did, we didn’t want to offend anyone. We’ve listened to them and their stories because as players we’ve only read what everyone else is reading.

We’ve been sat in the middle wondering what we do. I want to play international football for my manager and I also want to play for my club and my manager and my-team mates on both sides. Eni told me that she felt like we’d picked sides and chosen to back the manager and not her, but that wasn’t the case.

Nikita [Parris] has run to Mark and whether it was right at the time I don’t know. But emotions were high and it was a coming together of the group, it’s looked terrible maybe for other people and maybe it got out of hand.

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I said to Drew and Eni that I can’t imagine what it has been like, I’ve known both of them for so long and it’s not a nice situation for them, but they had to understand we wanted to play for our country and do well for the people that surround us.

The staff, the physios, the admin people, the guys sat in the office, it’s just part and parcel of what we do as international players. A lot of us had positive experiences with Mark and to give all that up over something that we weren’t involved in was difficult. The girls believed in Mark and what he was doing on the pitch, all the other stuff we couldn’t comment on because we just weren’t involved with it.

I don’t really know whether knowing more would have helped or not, but I think it was left for too long and not dealt with at the right time. We were brought into it not knowing the full details, all we knew was what was being said in the news. I think it was more a protection thing, but I hope the FA have learned from their mistakes and not taking allegations as serious as they were.

It put us in a very vulnerable position as players, once it was in the media it became a free-for-all. As players, we were wondering who was going to be the one to say something they don’t mean that’s taken out of context. Realistically, we wanted to play football rather than talk about things we didn’t know about, but that’s the situation we were left in.

I’m sure a lot of lessons have been learned, it’s a shame it’s come to this because Mark did have us going in the right direction. But it is what it is, hopefully everyone can move on and we can compete for a World Cup in 2019.

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The next head coach has been left to the powers above. We were speaking as players about what we’d want to do, did we want to put together a list? But it does have to be taken out of the players hands, but also the people picking do need to take our feedback on board.

We spoke a lot at the Russia camp about how we want to move forward as a team and I think those things will help shape who does get the job, but as players we won’t have any say in that and I think that’s the correct decision.

I hope we’ve shown the potential we have. Mark wanted to take us to that next level and I hope whoever comes in can continue that. Mo [Marley] has come in and a lot of people have been crying out for people to retire and new faces to come in, but I don’t think we’ll see that until the new year.

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I think Mo just has to run with it at the moment, get six points on the board in the qualifiers this month and then she’s done her job. It’s mad sort of having her coach us all again the second time around. All of us sat in the room when we did the shirt presentation before France and it was a very proud moment for her, she was beaming with pride.

She’d coached us all as youngsters and now she’s coaching us on the biggest stage possible and I know she wants to do her country proud. All we want to do is do our best and that’s a big thing for anyone who comes in, everyone knows we’ll give it our all and if we continue then this team will be successful.

It’s exciting, it’s nerve-wracking. We don’t know who’s coming in or if we’ll be a part of their plans so it’s up to us to impress. I’ve heard rumours there’s been over 100 applicants so we’ll see what happens.

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Alex Scott has obviously retired and first and foremost we’ve lost our DJ! Alex is actually quite quiet on camp but the personality she has with the media is what she’s very good at. If you’d told me Alex would go into the media five years ago I would have laughed at you, because she is very quiet but she’s also very, very good at what she does.

Alex’s story and journey is pretty phenomenal and I really hope she tells it one day, whether she does or not I don’t know. I’m sure she’s made a lot of people proud, she’s going to be a huge loss to replace those 140 caps.

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But we’ve been left in good hands with Lucy and Jess Carter and Hannah Blundell. Lucy learned a lot from Alex and taken it to another level and that’s credit to Alex. As a senior player it’s hard knowing your time is up, but Alex has done pretty much everything. She’s got most of the medals but there’s a time where you have to let go and she’s done that very gracefully.

Alex knows her limits and wants to focus on a new part of her life and a new part of her career, I’m sure she’ll be around the game for a lot longer because she’s very good at it. She had her moments around camp when she needed to and it’s hard to see players retiring, but we’ll still see Alex around the game I’m sure.

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I had a fantastic time with Chelsea in the Spring Series and I couldn’t have asked for it to go better. Within two days of finishing and lifting the trophy I had an offer on the table from the club to sign permanently, for me that was surprising based on the fact I knew Viggy [Hedvig Lindahl] and Bex [Rebecca Spencer] would be back, but it also showed they believed in me and I’d be part of this group to try and win as many trophies as possible.

I’m also lucky to work with one of the best goalkeeper coaches in the country. I knew playing would be difficult, I’m alongside the top Swedish-capped player ever now but I know I’ve not improved in as many areas as I wanted to. That was just down to not having a permanent goalkeeping coach at Notts County and there’s only so much you learn from playing.

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My development was halted for a long time so if I’m not going to play then at least I’m now learning every day. It’s a different mindset now, if I’m going to be around one of the best coaches then I’m going to learn no matter how often I play. And if I do learn and get better, then I’ll play, and that’s how I look at it moving forward.

I want to play every minute, don’t get me wrong, but I’m at a club playing in four competitions and there’s plenty of opportunities for me to get minutes. It’s been difficult, I want to play more than I have, but I’ve learned more in two months here than two years at Notts and I know that’s made me a better goalkeeper.

That was my thought process when it came to joining. I’m 30 now, so I decided now is the time to sink or swim and I decided to go and compete with the best. It was a no-brainer, I’m with some of the best players in Europe.

Follow Carly on Twitter at @carlytelford1

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