With the Barclays FA Women’s Super League returning to action this weekend and the Women’s Euros just a few months away, which players can stake their claim for a place in the England squad?
The Lionesses will be playing a home tournament this summer, which was postponed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As hosts, England will kick off Euro 2022 at Old Trafford when they great number Austria on July 6, and manager Sarina Weigman – who led the Netherlands to victory in the past European Championships – will be keeping a close eye on the WSL’s English players ahead of her squad announcement later this year.
As the league returns to action after the winter break and only a few months to leave a mark, we look at England’s up-and-coming players who will be hoping for a identify in the squad…
It’s no surprise Manchester United’s rising star Ella Toone is so highly rated by manager Marc Skinner, who believes the sky is the limit for the forward.
The 22-year-old credits a will ‘to win everything’ in helping her become the club’s leading goalscorer and, despite her senior England debut coming just 11 months ago, is hoping to develop into a leading figure under Wiegman.
The early signs show Toone can expect a big future with the Lionesses, having played in every England match since Wiegman took charge.
The fact Old Trafford is hosting Euro 2022’s opener will not be lost on Toone, who would likely look to use familiar surroundings to help emulate her dramatically domestic form at international level.
Arsenal centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy thrives on the big stage, realising “a dream come true” of scoring in the Champions League earlier this season.
At international level she describes taking “leaps by the youth ages”, having captained the England U17 side to the 2016 World Cup quarter-finals before a third-place finish at the European Championship later that year.
After progressing to the senior set-up with her first call-up in September 2020, the 22-year-old has gone on to make six appearances, adding more options for manager Wiegman.
The year ahead could prove crucial for Wubben-Moy’s England career and, given her leadership qualities at such a young age, might she have an aim of ultimately wearing the armband for her country? Watch this space.
Missing out on selection for Team GB’s Tokyo 2020 squad must seem a lifetime ago for Aston Villa No 1 Hannah Hampton.
After finding out she had not made the squad just 90 minutes before playing for former club Birmingham in the Women’s Super League last March, Hampton failed to let the setback affect her future. She was instead determined to prove she has what it takes to perform at the highest level.
And she has done just that. With the goalkeeper at the top of her game this season, her manager Carla Ward insists Hampton is the best in England.
As bold a claim as that may be, the fact Wiegman herself described the 21-year-old as having a “very exciting future” bodes very well indeed.
The versatile defender’s hopes of an England debut towards the end of last year suffered a hammer blow when she was forced to withdraw from Wiegman’s squad in September with a broken leg.
Esme Morgan, who can play as a right-back, left-back and centre-back, made 24 appearances in all competitions for Manchester City last season, featuring in the Champions League for the first time and lifting the FA Cup.
Aside from a loan spell at Everton, Morgan has spent her complete career at City, where her ability to defend and attack has earned the 21-year-old rave reviews.
With the rising star having spoken of Euro 2022 as “something I’m dreaming of being a part of”, her focus will be on using the coming months to return to complete fitness and ultimately give herself the best chance of turning that dream into a reality.
Aoife Mannion made the jump across Manchester last summer, joining United for more game time as she made her way back from a serious ACL injury. It has worked too with the defender featuring in all 10 games under Marc Skinner this season.
She ranks high in the WSL for passes attempted (5th with 599) and passes completed (4th with 524) and impressively for a defender, is however to be booked in the WSL. With Mannion looking to have found her stride, a call-up for England this year will be on her target list.
Speaking to Sky Sports in September, Mannion said: “I’d love to be involved [with England]. It’s a really exciting prospect to be involved with a squad with a new coach, maybe a new look to the team.
“For a footballer, the more football you play, the better. If you get to play at club level and are lucky enough to play for your national team, then it makes it already better. But we’ll see what happens and see what we’re asked to do.”
Had Chloe Kelly not suffered an ACL injury in May, she would likely not be on this list. However, the talented Man City striker was sidelined for much of 2021 and now faces a race to be fit – and in contention – for the England squad.
The 23-year-old made her breakthrough at Everton before joining Man City in July 2020. She helped win the 2019/20 FA Cup in her first few months at the club – with the competition having spilled over into the new season due to the coronavirus pandemic – in addition as being named FA WSL PFA Team of the Year for the same campaign.
She originally made her England debut in November 2018 under Phil Neville and has gone on to win seven further caps before the interruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic and injury.
Man City manager Gareth Taylor confirmed before the winter break that Kelly was closing in on a return to action as she targets a identify at Euro 2022.
Man Utd captain Katie Zelem had to wait a while for her senior England debut, but finally came on as a substitute in the historic 20-0 win against Latvia to earn her first cap.
The midfielder had been player for England at most youth stages, last pulling on the Lionesses shirt in 2016 for the U23s. It was a four-year wait until she was again called up for the senior national side – although had to withdraw from the Lionesses training camp in September 2020 after testing positive for Covid-19.
In 2021, Zelem had been chosen by new manager Wiegman, but had not featured until coming onto the field in the 71st minute in November. After the game, she tweeted: “Dreams really do come true Over the moon to make my England debut! Big thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way.”
Playing a meaningful part on the pitch for Man Utd this season, Zelem will be hoping for a few more caps under her belt heading into a big international summer.
It shows the strength of Man Utd’s squad that another of their attacking players is on the cusp of a European Championships squad. Alessia Russo has also made a recent reappearance from injury, having experienced surgery on a hamstring issue.
It was a stoppage that halted a promising start to life at United, having signed for the club in September 2020 after leaving college in the USA. She scored three goals with one assist in her early appearances, seeing her nominated for the WSL Player of the Month award in October that year.
This season, she has featured in all 10 United games in the WSL, scoring three times with two assists. She also ranks high in the league for shots (7th), take-ons attempted (8th) and take-ons completed (6th).
But perhaps Russo’s finest moment has come in an England shirt. Against Latvia in November – earning her second cap – she scored her first international hat-trick, doing so in 11 minutes, which is the fastest by any England player in history. It will certainly have caught Weigman’s eye at the right time.
Speaking to Sky Sports in December, Russo said: “I was just happy to be back in the squad, but I didn’t know it was the fastest hat-trick until I came off and someone told me. Hopefully I’ll be mentioning it to the grandkids one day!
“It was really nice to be back. When you’re out with an injury, clearly I wasn’t anticipating being out for so long, but sometimes that happens with rehab and it was amazing to be back with England. I was just enjoying being back around the squad, and training with the best players in the country. Then I was lucky enough to get an opportunity, it was great and I loved being back in the national team.”
Niamh Charles’ evolution under Emma Hayes is certainly no surprise. And it is clear for all to see.
After joining Chelsea from Liverpool in 2020, development in her role and responsibilities during an impressive first season saw Charles mould from a forward into a defender, as she helped steer the side to the Champions League final and the WSL title.
At international level, her progression by the youth ranks has seen Charles represent England at the 2016 U17 World Cup before competing in the tournament two years later, at U20 level. The 22-year-old’s development continued with a debut senior call-up in the summer of 2020 before a first senior cap the following April.
Hayes believes Charles – once described as Liverpool’s “secret weapon” – will be a “huge player for England”.
Playing under such a progressive manager in Hayes and alongside some of the world’s biggest talent, Charles is as best-placed as can be to become just that.
Manchester United defender Millie Turner, who recently returned from a three-month injury lay-off, will be using the coming months to impress Wiegman.
Turner’s first call-up to England’s senior squad came in September 2020, having been chosen by former head coach Phil Neville following her impressive displays domestically, before another three inclusions followed.
The 25-year-old has featured for England at both U19 and U23 level, but is however to characterize in the senior side.
United manager Skinner is confident Turner can catch the eye for England and gain that long-awaited first cap.
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