‘Aggressive’ Grace Clinton targeting central role as England await Sweden

<span>Grace Clinton impressed in <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a>’s February camp in Marbella.</span><span>Photograph: Naomi Baker/The FA/Getty Images</span>

England’s latest breakout star Grace Clinton has said she relishes the ­freedom that comes with playing in the middle as the Lionesses prepare to face Sweden in their opening Euro 2025 qualification game on Friday.

Sarina Wiegman’s side welcome the World Cup bronze medallists to Wembley in their first fixture in the “group of death”, Group A3, which also contains the Euro 2022 semi-finalists France and Ireland, the only pot-four team to have qualified for the World Cup last summer.

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Clinton shone in England’s February camp in Marbella, scoring on her debut in a friendly against Austria and starting the following game against Italy. Having been played on the wing by Tottenham’s manager, Robert Vilahamn, when she first arrived on loan from Manchester United at the start of the season, Clinton has been shifted into the middle and that is where she has caught the eye.

“At the start of the season Robert integrated me on to the wing, just to give me a bit more freedom on the ball and as I’ve gained more ­experience, he trusts me more in midfield which is nice,” said the 21-year-old. “I’m most confident in midfield, in that No 10 or No 8 role, it’s really nice because I’m a player who just wants to get on the ball and then if I don’t get on the ball, I’d say I’m quite an aggressive player to try and win it back. So being on the ball in midfield where you can do most of the harm is where I want to be.”

With Fran Kirby, Georgia ­Stanway, Ella Toone, Lauren James and Jess Park all able to operate in those more attacking midfield roles, the ­competition is fierce. “You look at the whole squad and it’s unbelievable depth,” said Clinton. “It’s an amazing squad. You get out on the pitch and the standards are so high, so you all drive each other.”

A critical part of Clinton’s development has been loan moves to Bristol City and now Tottenham, having joined the former for a spell shortly after signing for Manchester United in July 2022.

“For youngsters in the WSL it’s something that could be utilised more,” she said. “For me, I’ve had two loan spells now and I wouldn’t be near where I am right now football-wise without them. I’ve been around ultimate professionals, learning from them on the pitch just soaking up all the information and just trying to compete with them as much as you can.”

The return of the Euro 2022-winning captain, Leah Williamson, to the England fold for the first time since she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament last April means she has one more person to learn from. “It’s my first camp with Leah back in and she’s one of the best in the sport isn’t she? So it’s great to have her back,” said Clinton. “She’s getting reintegrated slowly and we’re only a couple days in, it will be really nice to get her back in the team on the pitch.”