This time last year I was in Canada House in London waiting for Mark Sampson to announce the 23 players he would be taking to the 2015 World Cup. The media presence was busy — far busier than expected given nobody knew just how successful the team were going to be over the coming months.
This time next year I’ll be there again and in all likelihood the media scrum will be double the size it was last year, but it’s not the only thing quickly rising in numbers. I still have the piece of paper on which I had written down the 27 names of players I believed had a chance of going to Canada. Then, there were the four who never made it: Jess Clarke, Demi Stokes, Anita Asante, and Gemma Davison.
You could host the EUROs tomorrow and add at least 10, maybe 15, names to that list, and it will keep on growing over the next 12 months. Sadly, the prime candidate for inclusion next summer is currently undergoing a slump, both individually and with her club as a whole — Beth Mead. Her quest is made more difficult by the fact there are already 7 or 8 attackers ahead of the Sunderland striker in the pecking order and by the ever-improving duo of Nikita Parris and Danielle Carter.
Against all odds, Parris has been Manchester City’s star attacker this season while Carter’s superb goal at Wembley last week won’t have gone unnoticed with Mark Sampson watching. Sampson already has 3 or 4 selection headaches, very few players — if any — deserve to drop out of the squad that went to Canada but Gilly Flaherty, Gemma Davison, and PFA Player of the Year Izzy Christiansen are certain to take someone’s spots.
Demi Stokes is another who is likely to make the plane, while Amy Turner, Jemma Rose, Hannah Blundell, and Drew Spence have all been included in squads since the World Cup and the majority are going from strength to strength with their clubs this season. Then take into account the players who Sampson hasn’t even called up yet. The ever-improving Millie Bright trained at St. George’s Park with the squad before the games against Belgium and Bosnia, and Katie Zelem has emerged as a midfield contender with her performances for Liverpool.
Down the Line
A quick look at the U-23 squad announced for next month’s Nordic tournament and the problems for Sampson get even better. Although the chance of any of them going to Holland is low, the potential going forward is huge. With several experienced faces potentially set to leave the international setup post-Euros, plenty of spaces could open up by the time the 2019 World Cup rolls around. Molly Bartrip. Abbie McManus, Jade Bailey, Rosella Ayane, Beth England, Carla Humphrey, Millie Farrow, and of course — Beth Mead, plus many others.
Even beyond those names, how long before teenagers Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson are making a case for inclusion? Both are currently playing for England’s U-19 side but are both regulars with two of the top FA Women’s Super League sides; the options are genuinely limitless. Before the World Cup last year, former Arsenal defender Faye White told me she knew she would make England’s squads back in the day as there were no other options. Now we couldn’t be any further from that situation and it is a credit to the improvement and hard work that has gone into the women’s game in England.
There are even names catching the eye further down the pecking order than the U-19s as Georgia Stanway and Alessia Russo impress with the U-17s. Both are scoring goals for fun and despite Chelsea’s already impressive attack, Russo has managed to find her way onto the bench for her club a few times this season despite being just 17.
So, with options at an all-time high, who makes your squad for Holland next summer, and more importantly, who will make Sampson’s?