Above: England star Lucy Bronze speaking to the media yesterday ahead of the Lionesses game with Canada. Photo: FA.
Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from both Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway ahead of the Lionesses opening Arnold Clarke Cup game against Olympic champions Canada at the Riverside Stadium (15/2/22).
England’s Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway both spoke of the confidence in the Lionesses squad and the difference in camp since the arrival of Sarina Wiegman as head coach ahead of the Arnold Clark Cup competition which will see them face three of the world’s top sides in Canada, Spain, and Germany over the next week.
At the media conference in the North-East ahead of the competition opener against the Olympic champions, Bronze told Impetus that despite the Canadian head coach Bev Priestman and a number of their players knowing the Lionesses’ well, England will pose them a very different challenge at Middlesbrough.
“Bev knows a lot of our players well, but we have changed since then, both in terms of personal and the way we play. There will be players that they don’t know as well – our younger players who have been performing well this season. We know that where we were back then is very different to where we are now.
“This is the first time we’ve played a really high-ranked team with Sarina (Wiegman) as our manager and a new way of playing, whereas Bev was part of the England team over a year ago and things are very different now.
“The team is a lot more settled and we’re in a much better place as a squad now. It’s also a different dynamic for Canada now as they go into the game as Olympic champions.”
Bronze went on to note that it was her first international camp for quite some time due to injury and remarked how noticeable the number of new faces there are among the squad under head coach Sarina Wiegman. “Yeah! There are still a few old faces around though, which is nice. We had a good catch-up yesterday and so far things are going well.
“I’m still trying to get to know what this team is about, what our strengths are, and what we can improve on. Once I know that I can help feed that back into the team.”
The defender admitted that whilst it was hard to be on the sidelines for both club and country over recent months, it was important to put herself first and get better. “I had been impacted the previous season by it in my play, and so whilst it was frustrating to be out this season, it was something that I needed to get right for myself.”
Having games in three different parts of the country – after Thursday’s game in Middlesbrough, the Lionesses go to Norwich and then Wolverhampton is vitally important in growing the fanbase and giving youngsters the chance to see their heroes close up.
“It’s massively important,” enthused Bronze. “Growing up in the North-East, the chance of watching England internationals was few and far between, so it’s nice to give people the chance to see us play and build that support network. Particularly as we missed so many games during COVID.”
Focusing specifically on the game with Canada, Bronze is expecting a tough game. “It will be an exciting match-up, with Canada being off the back of the Olympics. A lot of the girls know Bev (Priestman, head coach, and formally Phil Neville’s assistant with the Lionesses) really well and what she has achieved is great.”
Whilst a home European Championships are on the horizon, the Manchester City star is only interested in the here and now. “Whilst there is excitement and having played in major tournaments and seeing the boost the host nation gets, for now, I’m now just focusing on what is in front of now with these three games rather than looking ahead to the Euros.
“We’re super excited for this competition. It’s nice to play in England against top nations playing big games and match ourselves against the best players in the world. We were dead set on (facing) these teams. They all offer something different. Canada have a lot of energy, Spain will look to possess the ball a lot, and Germany are so well organized. It will be all about how we match up to that, but I’ll back our players. We’ve got a strong squad.”
Manchester City’s Georgia Stanway highlighted to Impetus‘ Ben Gilby the differences that she has noticed in the Lionesses set up since the arrival of Sarina Wiegman as head coach.
“We have had a lot of change. It is nice to know that the future is set in stone and we can build relationships with staff members as a team. For me, the massive aspect I’ve found with Sarina is the support. She wants the best for every single player and will go out of her way to make sure that every single one of us is comfortable and happy in the environment.
“If you score one goal, if you score 10 goals, or if you don’t score at all, everyone is treated the same and everyone is valued in the squad which is very important. Everyone has a purpose and has a reason to be here.”
The 23-year-old Barrow-born star spoke about the difficult period she’s had this season having to play in so many different positions for her club. She is clear where she wants to be located long term.
“I want to be able to master a position and call it my own. It’s hard being versatile. It can work in your favour when you talk about tournaments and in small squads when someone is injured. I have hit a point now where I want to knuckle down in one position and be the best I can be in that position.
“For me, it’s midfield where I want to be. I played as a youth coming through age-group football and I started there at Manchester City.
“It’s been a difficult 15 months for me at Manchester City having to fill in for people. Whether it be me playing full-back, the nine, the back three, second choice goalkeeper. I need to be able to knuckle down now and master one position and focus on the things I want and need to get better at in that position.”
Looking at the Arnold Clark Cup, Stanway was excited about the challenges that she and the Lionesses face. “It’s an opportunity to play world-class opposition and with our focus on the Euros, that’s really important. It feels like part of the Euros preparation and we need to be ready to perform from 6th July for the Euros.