There is something slightly surreal about picking your way through throngs of guidebook clutching tourists and excited school kids in blazers before you get to the area set aside for a press conference…
But there wasn’t much avoiding them if you wanted to find out which names were on the list of 23 players picked by Hope Powell to represent England at the Euros this summer, writes She Kicks’ CATHERINE ETOE.
That’s because the British Museum in London was chosen to host what we at She Kicks have come to call ‘the big reveal’ – that moment when the guessing stops and the squad list for a major tournament is revealed.
As big reveal venues go, the British Museum with its dramatic sweep of steps and columns, foyer of sculpted stone antiquities and fancy roof has to be one of the best yet. Sadly, the squad announcement wasn’t to be made from the top of a stone lion in the majestic entrance with hordes of tourists and junior school pupils applauding below.
Four ‘lady heads’, three (Gemma Bonner, Jade Moore & Laura Bassett) of which are Sweden-bound. (Catherine Etoe)
It was to be delivered to the media down a flight of steps, off a foyer peppered with replica busts and lady heads and in a cute theatre that one chap said reminded him of his university lecture hall. He had a point, but the woman stood at the lectern in a pink dress with big hair was nothing like any lecturer we had ever had.
That’s because the woman at the lectern was BBC commentator and women’s footy champion Jacqui Oatley, and the job of marshalling this particular squad announcement was hers.
Jill Scott chats to Jacqui Oatley, after the announcement. (Catherine Etoe)
Now we have to admit that She Kicks once accidentally worked out who was in a big reveal squad by bumping into most of them in the toilet beforehand. But there were no players doing their hair in the loos at the British Museum, and the only hint we had of the squad list came from giant posters of Eni Aluko, Karen Carney, Karen Bardsley, Rachel Yankey and a player looking suspiciously like Jordan Nobbs in the foyer.
Even stumbling into the event rehearsal gave us few clues, although we did get a sneak preview of a spine tingling video montage of qualification campaign goals and celebrations, and a few good luck messages from Olympians, Paralympians and Roy Hodgson.
“We had gold postboxes,” beamed boxer Nicola Adams from the big screen while an angelic voice serenaded her with a high pitched “lalala” in the background. “Who knows, maybe you’ll have your own gold postboxes as well. Good luck girls!”
It was a nice thought, as was the idea that England men’s manager Hodgson would, as he said, be watching them “from afar” and keeping his fingers crossed for the squad. But who would the beneficiaries of Roy’s crossed fingers be? And which towns might have golden postboxes should the team go all the way?
Once FA general secretary Alex Horne had brought us up to speed with the state of the women’s game and England boss Hope Powell told us about the challenges of narrowing the squad down to 23, anyone without a freshly printed press release found out.
The news came from another video montage, this time of the chosen players in a list that adds up to this: Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley, Rachel Brown-Finnis, Siobhan Chamberlain; Defenders: Laura Bassett, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Bradley, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Alex Scott, Casey Stoney, Dunia Susi; Midfielders: Anita Asante, Karen Carney, Jess Clarke, Jade Moore, Jordan Nobbs, Jill Scott, Fara Williams, Rachel Yankey; Strikers: Eni Aluko, Toni Duggan, Kelly Smith and Ellen White.
That’s four centurions, two players entering a sixth major tournament, seven their fifth, and five their first but with Euro under-19 champions medals to their names. So what did these players think of their call-up and their team’s chances? Luckily, 16 of them were hiding in the wings in their smart suits and pink shirts, ready to stride on to the big red stage and tell us.
First up, Toni Duggan, who scored in England’s under-19 Euro final. “Playing in the European championships at a senior level, it doesn’t get much better than that,” she said. “It’s a great squad, we’ve got a good blend and have all put in the work and now we just have to go out there and put on a show.”
What about the veterans? It was most capped player Rachel Yankey’s turn to have Jacqui’s microphone pointed in her direction. “The youngsters that are coming through deserve to be there,” she said. “And it’s fantastic that we’ve got a squad where we can have people competing for a place and with experienced players who have played in senior competitions.”
Captain Casey Stoney speaks to FATV. (Catherine Etoe)
England captain Casey Stoney, freshly returned from injury, wasn’t getting away without a few words either, even though she had planted herself away from Jacqui in the middle of the front row. “It’s great to see all these girls here and it shows the strength and depth we have going into such a major tournament,” she said after shuffling stage right. “We are excited, we have a very difficult group but we know what’s in front of us, we know what we have to deal with, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Now we finally know which players will be facing the challenges ahead, so are we….
More from some of the players selected to follow.
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