Despite the lack of her presence at this year’s Euros, the superb Caroline Weir has now earned the right to be one of the first names on the Team GB squad list should Tokyo go ahead.
Scotland, and indeed Wales’, failure to qualify for Euro 2022 shouldn’t dent the chances that some of those players have of making the Team GB Olympic squad this summer, with one player now one of the standout candidates for a ticket on the plane to Tokyo.
At 25, Caroline Weir is entering the peak years of her career and her performances on the pitch are proving this, for both Scotland and her club side Manchester City.
To be signed by Arsenal straight out of high school should have been the first sign Scotland had a prodigious talent on their hands, but it never quite worked out with the Gunners, with Weir searching for game time at a Bristol City side already destined for relegation.
Her talent though was enough for Liverpool to sign her as part of their regeneration in 2016, after the departure of manager Matt Beard and a whole host of key players.
It was on Merseyside that Weir started to become the player we know today. Technical quality aside, Weir’s ability to regularly find the top corner from any area of the opposition half soon made her one of the standout players in the FA Women’s Super League.
Any time I’ve spoken to her, she’s been modest, never getting carried away and potentially not understanding just how gifted a footballer she truly is.
Her move to Manchester City in 2018 only emphasised things, and in Manchester she showed the versatility which may also make her a candidate for the Team GB squad, given only 18 players can be chosen.
Nick Cushing chose to regularly play Weir as a left-winger. Although not blessed with pace, Weir did a deadly delivery and arguably the best left foot in the league. Regularly chipping in with goals and assist, Weir has become one of the best in the league.
All that culminated in her sublime Manchester derby goal earlier this month. I’d say watch it again, but most probably have now. While her teammates’ reactions varied from hands-on-head to head-in-hands, Weir was already running away in celebration, knowing full well she’d just unleashed an effort from her left foot which was going to leave Mary Earps with no chance.
To even try it, let alone execute it, shows what Weir is now about as a player, and although England may have a strong midfield themselves, they don’t have one like Weir, at least not one in the form the Scot is right now.
If Tokyo goes ahead and Team GB want a realistic chance of success, the superb Weir has now earned the right to be one of the first names on the squad list. It is though somewhat cruelly ironic that we will be robbed of seeing Weir at the Euro’s – partly in thanks to her former national team head coach Anna Signeul, who is now at the helm of the Finland national team.
Finland’s late win in Edinburgh back in December did though bring to an end Shelley Kerr’s reign in charge of the Scotland national team, and robbed us of the opportunity to see what should be the golden era of the squad on the big stage in England next year, including Weir.
It’s likely an indictment of Kerr that a team consisting of not just Weir, but Kim Little, Erin Cuthbert, Claire Emslie, Jen Beattie and Rachel Corsie couldn’t even manage top two in the group and didn’t even score a goal in any of the four games against main group rivals Finland and Portugal.
Kerr and Scotland’s failure though should not rob any of those players of an opportunity to board the plane to Tokyo and the Team GB head coach, whoever it may be, will still have a selection headache on their hands.
While issues out of Beattie’s hands have hampered her season on the pitch, the likes of Little and Cuthbert can still offer something different to what the other nations can, while Corsie has shown her quality in helping to shore up Birmingham City’s defence during her short spell back in the FA WSL.
Wales also offer an array of opportunities, particularly in the midfield. Sophie Ingle and Hayley Ladd have both just signed long-term new deals at their respective clubs Chelsea and Manchester United while, like Corsie, Jess Fishlock has reminded everyone of her qualities back in the FA WSL with Reading.
Her Reading teammate Angharad James doesn’t often get a mention, alongside perhaps three more illustrious names, but her impending move to NWSL giants North Carolina Courage show just how valued James is. The fact that her talents have been recognised by head coach Paul Riley should also give Team GB food for thought.
There is of course Northern Ireland too, where a few players would have caught the eye of Hege Riise in this week’s friendly against England, with Rachel Furness among the leading candidates should any Northern Ireland players make the cut.
Goalkeeper Becky Flaherty, who I have the pleasure of working with at Sheffield United, also impressed with several early saves and the score line could certainly have been more than six had it not been for her.
Follow Rich on Twitter @RichJLaverty