Six months ago Grace Fisk was a relatively unknown quantity in this country but since her return to the WSL her stock has been on the up and up, writes Tom Dean.
The 22-year-old was selected as the only uncapped outfield player in Phil Neville’s SheBelieves Cup squad earlier this year despite only returning to England from the USA a few weeks prior.
Born in Bromley, Fisk came through the ranks at Millwall Lionesses before spending four years playing and studying in America and returning to the WSL as a West Ham player back in January.
After just four games back in England, Neville handed Fisk her first senior call-up and a speedy return to the States.
And despite not playing any minutes or retaining the title with England, the central defender considers the experience to be one of the most important of her career to date.
“I really enjoyed spending time with the senior players and picking stuff up about their journeys,” said Fisk.
“Watching how they go about their daily routines, watching the things they eat – I’m still trying to find my own routine because I’m quite young.
“Walking out for even just the warm up against the USA with Abby Dahlkemper and Tobin Heath either side of me was amazing.
“The crowd cheers weren’t for us obviously but it was still unreal to hear that sort of atmosphere.
“Because of the structure of the camp there wasn’t that much time for training so it was a bit hard for the younger ones who weren’t playing to find a rhythm.
“For me it was more about just being in the environment and seeing what I need to do to get another call up and start playing for my country.”
Hammers boss Matt Beard will certainly be hoping he has recruited a future England regular in Fisk as the debate around Neville’s best centre-back partnership rages on.
The early signs are certainly promising with Fisk making her Millwall debut aged just 16 and playing for the first team for another two years before moving abroad.
A debut season at Penn State University in 2016 was followed up by a move to the University of South Carolina the following year where she immediately established herself in the heart of the Gamecock defence.
She was named captain for her final year leading the side to claim the SEC Tournament title as MVP and without conceding a single goal.
International duty and the Covid-19 outbreak has meant that Fisk has spent more time away from West Ham than most of her team-mates but is confident the lockdown period will not be a waste of time.
“One of the main things I’ve been doing is just mastering my routine – every day has been like groundhog day basically,” she said.
“Training at home has been a little bit tricky because we don’t know when we are eventually going to be playing again.
“Matt [Beard] has given us some tasks at home to try and keep our brains active and our strength and conditioning coach is doing his best with us.
“It’s nice to be at home with family too and I’ve actually gone back to doing chores, cleaning the kitchen and doing things around the house – I might even finish Michelle Obama’s book soon!”
Since the ongoing pandemic West Ham is one of a number of top-flight clubs to launch campaigns to stay connected with fans with their Hammers at Home initiative.
The project is geared towards keeping fans, especially youngsters, at home engaged with the club with challenges and messages from players.
Top-flight players had been under a lot scrutiny in the media before the #PlayersTogether initiative was announced last week but Fisk says she had every faith that her male counterparts would ultimately play their role given time.
“It’s been in the public eye a lot but with time they were always going to contribute,” Fisk added.
“I think it’s great that it’s up to each player and not forced on them because everyone is in different situations.
“It was allover my timeline when it was revealed and I don’t think there was ever any doubt they’d do the right thing.”
Follow Tom on Twitter @tombendean