In the changing room before our first game of the Euros in the summer, you could really feel the nerves. The mood was a bit different, the girls were a lot quieter than usual and it wasn’t as upbeat as it normally is.
Beating Austria 1-0 that night at Old Trafford was massive for us. Getting that first game out of the way doesn’t take the pressure off but it makes you a bit calmer, and that was really when we started to enjoy the tournament. Being honest, that first game was the one I enjoyed the least and the one in which we played the worst football.
With that in mind, I could not have been more impressed with the boys’ start on Monday. You can always say that, yes, they should beat Iran, but having played in those games, they’re not easy. Playing against opponents who are just going to sit in makes it hard. The spaces aren’t there for you, and when a team is at you and pressing you, it can actually help — you think a bit quicker and see things a bit quicker.
People have criticised England for not creating chances, but they certainly did in that game. They looked like a club team; it was free-flowing, everyone was on the same page and that’s probably what England have lacked in the past.
The boys will have switched focus to the USA game pretty quickly, but it’s also so important to enjoy those positive moments within a tournament because there are going to be ups and downs. It’s not every day you win a game at a home Euros or a World Cup.
We had a bit of a ritual. We’d play the same songs, Leah Williamson was our DJ and she’d have them queued up ready for after the game. Rachel Daly would always perform River Deep, Mountain High and the whole squad would join in. After every game we won, she’d grab the speaker and be wheeling it around the changing room.
It brought the team back together, the ones who’d played and the ones who’d been on the sideline, that’d be the moment when we all came back together to celebrate.
The fact that Gareth Southgate managed to get so many players involved, up and running off the bench was another big positive. Marcus Rashford scored with his third touch, Callum Wilson got an assist and when Phil Foden and Jack Grealish came on, you could see the connection they have. I saw that video of them doing volleys to each other in the gym and the technique is just ridiculous. You can see how close they are off the pitch and it comes across when they play together as well.
England Training Session for FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar | 23rd November 2022
England are going to need all those players across the tournament. In the Euros, the likes of Alessia Russo, Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly coming on for us in the second half of games became a bit of a thing. As a player already on the pitch, it definitely livens you up — if you’re feeling a bit tired or leggy because you’ve not been on the ball so much, those kind of players coming on suddenly brings a lot of positive energy to the team and gives you a bit of a second wind.
Plus, in this tournament if you come on at 70 minutes, you’ll probably end up getting half-an-hour with all the added time. It’s been strange and it’ll be interesting to see the impact it has later in the tournament.
When you get into the knockout stages and you’re holding onto the lead, the last thing you want to see is 10 minutes going up on the added-time board. Mentally, that would play a lot of games with you as a player and I’m sure we’ll see some late drama because of that.