[dropcap]E[/dropcap]ngland goalkeeper says she wouldn’t change her journey after receiving her first major tournament minutes against Argentina last Friday night.
Telford, 31, was part of the England squad that first faced Argentina back at the 2007 World Cup, but didn’t go to another major tournament until Mark Sampson called her up for the 2015 World Cup.
The Chelsea goalkeeper also went to Euro 2017 but in none of her three previous squad call-ups has she ever managed to get on the pitch, largely playing deputy to the likes of Karen Bardsley, Siobhan Chamberlain, or Rachel Brown.
“I have waited a terribly long time for that and if I’m honest, I wouldn’t change my journey, I wouldn’t change who I am. I’ve probably been put on this path for a reason, and here I am, I’ve finally done it,” Telford said.
Telford added, “My family have been very patient with me. I said I would get there one day and I did, but for me, look, I wouldn’t change it, I’d sit on the bench, I’d do it all again if it meant this team won. For me, the team comes first. I’m not going to sit and moan. I could be sitting at home and that’s not where I want to be.”
Telford admitted she’d love to play every game but said it will “take 23 of us to win this tournament” but couldn’t hide the smile after making her first major tournament appearance 12 years after her senior debut.
“Of course I am [happy], I’m at a World Cup, I’m doing what I love in front of 20,000 people,” she laughed. “I know my dad’s here, my brother and sister are here, my mum’s upstairs, my gran and grandad are watching at home. I’ve wanted this since I was a kid. What’s not to smile about?”
Telford’s mum, Yvonne, passed away just under a year ago after a long battle with cancer but the rest of Telford’s family was in France.
While most of them made it to Le Havre to see the game, her dad was still in Nice and wasn’t able to make it to the stadium.
“Unfortunately, it meant my dad missed it as he’s in Nice. He couldn’t get up here because my mum would have navigated, I don’t trust him to travel this far himself, he probably would have got stuck in Paris!
“But my brother and sister were here. My dad will have been watching, they always have. I’ve always lived away from home, it was always a long drive from Newcastle to wherever I was, so for him to watch on TV, I know he’d be super proud as punch.”
Telford has always spoke of coming from what she describes as a “humble background.”
Her family has watched her wherever she’s traveled and even went all the way to Canada for the last tournament despite her never getting on the pitch, but got to see her win a bronze medal against Germany.
“My brother was like ‘dad isn’t going to make it, what are we going to do?’ I just said it was fine, he’ll be sat watching TV, it’s no different and I don’t mind that. “
Telford didn’t have the most eventful debut as Argentina struggled to mount any major attack on England’s goal, but as ever, she made light of the situation and didn’t seem overly bothered by what became an underwhelming encounter.
“Yeah, I had a shot and a punch, woohoo!” she laughed. “Sometimes, actually, those jobs are harder and I’m taking nothing away from the Argentina goalkeeper because she was fantastic, but sometimes staying switched on and keeping your back four switched on for those moments is so important.”
On whether it’s difficult to stay switched on when there’s little to do, Telford said, “Not so much. I was applauding Correa. It’s nice to see a goalkeeper do well, especially in a major tournament. Goalkeepers come under a lot of criticism and rightly so.
“Some of the lesser nations don’t have the kind of infrastructure and coaching that we get, I think people forget that, which is quite sad. Correa was brilliant today, she stood up, they’re out here trying their best for the nation. They are proud as punch to be here representing their country.”
There was visible emotion in the post-match huddle as head coach Phil Neville made reference to the passing of Telford’s mum after her debut and also the birthday of Fran Kirby’s mum who passed away when the striker was just 14.
“At the end, he said, ‘I don’t want to say this but I know your mum would be watching and I know your mum would be watching’ to both of us. All of the girls were trying to keep it together. Look, Phil is a fantastic guy, I’ve said before he is like a dad figure if I’m honest. He lost his dad not that long ago and it’s hard for him because he would want his dad to see him as an England manager and see how proud he is of him.
“I had the conversation with him. I said they will all be sat upstairs having a beer, my mum would probably be sat with her head behind a pillow no doubt but the three of them will be sat watching us, looking over and wishing us well.”
There’s now no guarantee Telford will keep her spot for the group decider against Japan back in Nice on Wednesday, with Neville likely to recall Karen Bardsley for a game which will go a long way to deciding England’s route for the rest of the tournament.
But Telford isn’t dwelling on what might happen next and says she will always want whoever plays to perform to their absolute to aid the team.
“Phil picks the team that he thinks is going to win that game and you’ve got respect that,” she said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t wish the keeper that’s playing well, I want them to play fantastically because if she is, it means we’re winning. That is the whole point of it. I’m going to say it over and over again, it is going to take 23, 24 of us, including Ellie [Roebuck], to win this tournament. It’s not going to be up to me, KB, Mary [Earps] or Ellie, it’s going to be the whole group.”
Former United States goalkeeper Hope Solo has been particularly critical of Neville’s decision to rotate goalkeepers throughout his tenure, going as far to say she “completely disagreed” with the decision, but Telford wouldn’t be drawn on her comments.
“She is entitled to have her opinion,” she said. “It is her job to mix it up. If she just sat there and said ‘Yeah, well done Phil, keep going’ then it would be boring TV. Phil knows what he is doing. He has rotated since he came in, since day one he has never had a set eleven he plays, that’s just how he works.
“It keeps the opposition guessing, it keeps you guys guessing, and gives you something to talk about. He trusts his whole team. There’s not one point you think you’re going out there not prepared because we’ve all had time, we’ve all had minutes, and we know he believes in us which makes you feel an extra foot taller.”