Hannah Hampton returns to Lionesses squad after sorting ‘personal issues’
Sarina Wiegman says goalkeeper Hannah Hampton earned a recall to England’s squad for April’s internationals against Brazil and Australia after addressing some “personal issues”.
Aston Villa’s Hampton, who had not been selected since last summer’s European Championship, joins the 25-player squad as one of four goalkeepers, with Everton’s Emily Ramsey out injured.
Hampton was left out of the Villa squad during the autumn months, too, but has since returned to her club’s starting XI and has helped them win their last four Women’s Super League fixtures.
“She needed to sort out some personal issues, she’s done that, and she’s shown great performances, shown consistency and done that at club first, so I felt this was the moment to bring her in,” Wiegman said of Hampton’s return.
Mead needs ‘a miracle’
Wiegman also gave her biggest update yet on the fitness of Beth Mead, who has been sidelined with an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury since the end of November. The Arsenal forward was never expected to be recalled for this camp, but Wiegman has now said it will be “a miracle” if Mead is fit in time for the World Cup, which begins on July 20.
“I had conversations with her, she’s doing well in her rehab, she’s doing good,” said the Lionesses manager. “What we said now is, she’s not in our plans now, so just really take the time to get back well, but if a miracle happens, we will reconsider it. But at this moment I don’t expect that.”
Wiegman is also worried about the fitness of Fran Kirby, who remains out with an injury. She added: “Of course I’m concerned because she has been out for a while now, and it doesn’t look like she’ll be back in a real short time, but I want to keep this opportunity open. She [Kirby] will be treated how we treat anyone else. Hopefully she gets fit, she gets on the pitch again, she gets playing and then you need to feel performance and fitness and that’s what we need. So it’s a little concern, but we’ll just see how she progresses.”
There is still no place in the squad for in-form striker Bethany England, who has scored six goals in eight appearances for Tottenham since signing from Chelsea in January, while Arsenal centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy and Manchester United midfielder Katie Zelem have both been left out of the squad.
Gutted for her. Made the move and has scored goals. Could easily have stayed comfy at Chelsea.
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) March 28, 2023
Houston Dash striker Ebony Salmon has been dropped, with Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly being listed as a striker instead of a defender. Daly, the second-top goalscorer in the Women’s Super League this season, played at left-back for her country last summer but has been deployed as a central No 9 for Villa and started up front for England against Italy in February, scoring twice.
England will host Brazil at Wembley on Thursday, April 6, before welcoming Australia to Brentford on Tuesday, April 11. Both friendlies are 7.45pm BST kick-offs.
Nail-biting months ahead for players on the fringes
By Tom Garry
Wiegman’s latest squad of 25 players is still two more than she will be able to name for the World Cup in July, although prior to that she is expected to name a larger, provisional squad in June.
For Wubben-Moy and Zelem, both unexpectedly dropped for this camp, the months ahead could now be very nervous ones as they seek to prove they should be flying Down Under.
Wiegman said it had been very tough to leave that duo out, adding: “That’s a hard one. It has to do with the plans I have in those positions. The competition for centre-back is really high. Some players can play at full-back but also a centre back. At this moment we chose other players and that's the same for Katie. We know what she can bring and what she's done, she's shown that all the time, but now I make all the choices in that position.”
Also left out, despite good form for her club, is Aston Villa midfielder Lucy Staniforth, while there is no recall for Manchester City left-back Demi Stokes, nor Manchester United forward Nikita Parris.
For all of them, as the number of game-time opportunities to impress Wiegman reduces, their hopes of flying to the World Cup must now be very low.
Overwhelmingly, it is clear that Wiegman’s sole focus is preparations for the World Cup, and there is little room for sentiment in that thought process. Former England skipper Steph Houghton has not been called up by Wiegman since her first camp as head coach in September 2021. Asked if she had considered giving the 34-year-old centre-back an appearance in front of a packed Wembley, Wiegman replied: “I have so much respect for her [Houghton] and I’m happy for her to see her on the pitch, but for now, for us, it’s most important that we play games and that we get prepared for the World Cup. The door Is not closed, but at this moment she’s not in the squad and I chose other players as centre-back.”