A sold-out Wembley plays host to the Lionesses’ upcoming clash with the world champions on Friday, kick-off 8pm. Here’s what our reporter Rachel Roberts noticed while taking in today’s training session at the Lensbury Resort in London…
Late call-ups Wubben-Moy and Parris missing from training
Sarina Wiegman’s squad has been forced to undergo multiple changes since its initial announcement, after injuries to captain Leah Williamson and Lucy Parker – who had been called up to the squad for the first time. The England skipper picked up the injury in training, whilst Parker was injured in West Ham’s Continental Cup shootout victory over London City. Likewise, Alessia Russo was also forced to withdraw from the squad after a similar incident at the weekend.
There was no replacement called up for Russo, but Arsenal’s Lottie Wubben-Moy and Manchester United’s Nikita Parris enter the squad in place of Williamson and Parker. Though they were not present at today’s training session, the two new additions will shortly be joining up with their fellow Lionesses.
Sharp drills put the Lionesses through their paces
Amidst windy conditions, the levels of concentration never wavered, as the Lionesses rotated in groups through drills focused on passing and shooting. With balls being pinged up and down the pitch, small goals in each corner presented alluring targets for each group as the balls were fired in. The competitiveness was an apparent thread running through each side – ever present even during drills, but it was Beth Mead who hit the winning target to make the score 6-5 in her group’s favour.
Star striker shows what she’s Mead of under Wiegman’s watchful eye
The Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner spent some time on her own during the session, firstly working with Mary Earps and her fellow keepers as she tested their shot-stopping skills, which did pull out some impressive saves and bounces on the crossbar. Mead then took some time for individual coaching, completing sprints up and down the pitch as the rest of the squad moved into more match based exercises.
Speaking of coaching, manager Wiegman held a steely, watchful gaze across all proceedings as her coaches lead the Lionesses through their drills. However, during breaks in the play she wasted no time speaking directly to certain players, including Lauren Hemp on one occasion straight after a half-time whistle, as she prepares them exactingly for their upcoming fixtures.
Training is intense!
For the entire 75 minute duration of the morning session, the intensity was apparent from the start. Throughout the drills and the matches, it was clear how committed each individual was to performing at their best – how else do you become European champions?
Certain challenges resulted in players being left on the ground, Earps was a constant vocal presence between the sticks. Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby’s performances impressed, as did Lauren James – who, in one instance, sprinted to successfully keep a long pass in play, much to the delight of the audience of former Lionesses, who audibly cheered! After all this, the match ended 0-0, but it was anything but dull.
The past and the present united
Watching the training session with great pride were several former Lionesses, spanning multiple generations, as part of the FA’s celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the team. As former team-mates gathered with friends and family, they noted the vast differences between their experiences and the set-up before them and appreciated the talent on display before them. Their sentiments were matched by the current cohort of players; as the session closed, they invited their predecessors onto the pitch, where a group photo was taken.
The end of the session also saw a more relaxed atmosphere take hold, especially between Mead and Rachel Daly, and James and Earps, who played keepy-uppies in pairs. Though incredibly focused on their business, when the whistle blows the ease and camaraderie between this pack is self-evident and the mood buoyant, as the continental champions step up their preparations for a big week ahead.
Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellrobertts