In August, England head coach Phil Neville expressed his wish to bring in several members of Mo Marley’s Under-20 squad from the summer’s World Cup but was advised against it by Marley herself.
After a grueling summer in the heat of Northern France, Marley and her side brought home a bunch of bronze medals but it was time for a rest and some recovery before the players either returned to their clubs for the new domestic season or to their respective universities in the United States.
Neville kept in touch with the squad, messaging them to offer words of encouragement and to let them know he would be keeping an eye on their progress.
On Tuesday, Neville welcomed two of them into his squad for the upcoming friendlies against Austria and Sweden.
Both 19, Manchester City duo Georgia Stanway and Ellie Roebuck were perhaps always the likeliest candidates for inclusion given their reputation, status, and form at one of the top club’s in the country.
Different players, different people, different journeys, but both have developed into top young players and it’s highly likely both will become regulars in the England squad over the course of the next decade should they escape any bad injuries or bad luck.
But both have been on an impressive development drive since joining Manchester City in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and their ceiling is frightening when you consider both are still teenagers and have been regulars for Nick Cushing’s side for quite some time.
Stanway has just passed 70 appearances for City at the age of 19 while Roebuck made her 30th appearance against Reading last Friday night.
It isn’t the first time either has been included. Stanway was a late call-up to Neville’s first England squad for the SheBelieves Cup in February due to several injuries; Roebuck also traveled with the team as a non-squad player, with Neville instantly identifying her as a potential star after she came on and put in a huge performance against Chelsea at the beginning of the month.
Before the end of February, Roebuck starred once more in a pulsating 2-2 draw against the eventual champions Chelsea, doing enough to convince Neville of her qualities and secure a seat on the flight across the Atlantic.
Ironically, the teenager didn’t play a single minute of the U-20 World Cup but has won back her spot as Man City’s No. 1 at the perfect opportunity through Karen Bardsley’s injury, one which has benefited her at both club and international level.
Roebuck has once again taken her chance. After a messy moment against Birmingham City, Roebuck made several big saves to help her team claim three points before replicating her save on Drew Spence back in February against former teammate Jane Ross in a recent match against West Ham.
The goalkeeper plays with no fear and showed no nerves when thrown on the field after just 10 minutes in February’s top-of-the-table clash against Chelsea, instead making a save which would see her nominated for save of the year at the end of season FA Women’s Awards.
Current and former Man City teammates have been impressed by Roebuck’s attitude and how she “carries herself” for a youngster and it doesn’t seem anything has fazed Roebuck so far during her shot career.
Growing up in Beighton in Sheffield, a stone’s throw from fellow England international Millie Bright, Roebuck moved to neighboring Killamarsh, home of the Killmarash Dynamos, the team Bright played for as a child.
Roebuck’s career got underway for the Beighton Magpies before she ended up at Sheffield United, the team she supports and has a season ticket for, alongside fellow future England youth team members Sam Tierney and Hannah Cain.
At the start of 2016, she signed for Manchester City and made her debut in the 54th minute of their final league game of the season against Birmingham City, ironically coming on alongside Stanway who had already cemented herself in the first-team squad.
Given Cushing’s side were a mere half hour away from an undefeated season against a good Birmingham side, it was a big show of faith from her manager and a sign of things to come for a goalkeeper who has achieved plenty already in a short space of time.
Roebuck is also the ideal modern-day goalkeeper. Her distribution from the back has been one of the key reasons Cushing has often preferred her to Bardsley and she is becoming more comfortable playing short passes out to her defense or her midfielders, as most recently proven when she showed remarkable composure to play the ball out against Reading on Friday night, even with an opposition player right on top of her.
Last Friday against Reading, Roebuck completed almost 90 percent of her balls out from the back, while she completed 100 percent of her 28 short passes out to her defenders or midfielders.
While Roebuck may be composed and calculated, teammate Stanway is the polar opposite. A dynamic midfielder who plays with her heart on her sleeve, the City starlet has a relentless work ethic, will happily throw herself into challenges, berate referees, and has an engine to last the 90 minutes.
More than anything, she has a sensational right foot, one of the best in the league. At 19, she already has 29 goals for Man City, 24 of them coming in the FA Women’s Super League.
Her pathway was different to Roebuck’s but their paths crossed as early as playing for England at the U-15s level under the guidance of coach at the time Kay Cossington.
When Stanway scored an impressive double against the Netherlands as far back in 2014, Roebuck was the one keeping a clean sheet between the sticks.
Growing up in Barrow as a Newcastle United fan, Stanway’s path started at Furness Rovers Boys until she moved to secondary school where she was no longer allowed to play with the boys. Stanway was left with a decision: give up football or accept a trial at Blackburn Rovers, not exactly close to where she lived.
Stanway accepted a six-week trial but the club decided to sign her after just one, such was her talent. Blackburn was a hotbed for English talent and the same club where Man City would sign England international Keira Walsh 12 months before coming back for Stanway.
Such was her clear quality, Stanway made her Man City debut just 11 days after joining the club in a Continental Cup match against Durham. Her league debut followed soon after and her first league goal came in September 2015 against Bristol Academy.
Stanway would start to show what she was all about and the power she harnessed in her right boot during the 2016 season, scoring a beauty against Notts County before a hat trick at home to Sunderland before heading off to the U- 17 World Cup, where she announced her name to the women’s football world.
Stanway would score three goals at the tournament while Roebuck was the England No. 1 in goal, both returning to continue their development ahead of the 2017–2018 season.
Stanway’s rise was such that she was nominated for BBC’s Young Sport Personality of the Year and both would soon be offered professional contracts at the club that had nurtured and developed their talents.
On the respective days they’d originally signed for the club, manager Cushing had laid out a long-term plan for both to the players and their families, promises which have been kept to this very day as both now feature regularly in the Man City first team.
For Stanway, the spectacular goals have kept coming. Her late equalizer against Chelsea in February was not only crucial but it got her a nomination for goal of the season while this season has seen the teenager head to new heights.
More top performances at the U-20 World Cup in the summer saw her finish as joint top scorer alongside Spain’s Patri Guijarro and she has now firmly asserted herself as one of the top young players in the world.
She’s among the leading scorers in the FA WSL, scoring six goals in her last two-and-a-half games, including a hat trick against Brighton and another sensational effort against Reading last week.
Sometimes criticized for her overall game outside of scoring sensational goals, Stanway completed 97 percent of her 31 attempted passes against Reading and completed 80 percent of her attempted crosses. Her tenacity is clear in that she attempted six tackles during the game from her No. 10 role.
Her work in front of goal needs some work, however. Stanway’s go-to technique is power, but something which has often let her down in one-on-one situations. However, on the edge of the box she is fast becoming one of the deadliest players in the country and a player undoubtedly worthy of her inclusion in the squad.
Roebuck has had to fight off mean competition from Bristol’s Sophie Baggaley among others, but her rise in February just as Phil Neville took the England job couldn’t have been timed better. It instantly brought her to the attention of the new manager and worked right under his nose for two weeks out in the U.S., keeping her firmly in mind and ahead of the other alternatives behind Karen Bardsley, Carly Telford, and Mary Earps, the regular trio of goalkeepers during Neville’s time in charge so far.
Both should now be able to build on the foundations they have underneath them at Manchester City, safe in the knowledge they have the faith and trust of both Cushing and Neville. As their City teammate Steph Houghton prepares to receive her 100th cap during the upcoming international camp, one can only wonder how far two of England’s biggest starlets can go over the course of their respective careers.