At the mention of a particular international match in September 2005, Lauren Wade broke a big smile.
It’s been almost 16 years since David Healy knocked the ball past Paul Robinson to give Northern Ireland a famous win against England at Windsor Park.
Lauren was one of 14,000 at Windsor Park who went wild when the ball hit the net and remembered, « I remember that game like yesterday. «
Current circumstances mean that no fans can be present when women from Northern Ireland compete against their English counterparts today (12.30pm). This is why the game is being played at England’s training headquarters in St. George’s Park, and so it will be a much more reluctant opportunity than it could have been.
A win for the girls in green would mean just as much even if the friendly is part of the bigger picture, as Kenny Shiels prepares his team for the women’s play-off for Euro 2022 in April.
« I can still see David Healy’s goal and it would be a dream to play against To hit England, « said Lauren.
» We were focused on ourselves but it would be fantastic if the men beat England and then the women too. «
The confidence boost the girls got Taking Northern Ireland into the playoffs if they could beat England would undoubtedly be enormous.
If it was all about winning to keep the feel good factor high after a record-breaking four-win run they made the playoffs Had led, Shiels would have the opponent hand picked for this week – and he would not have chosen England.
However, the chance to face a team that made it to the World Cup semi-finals less than two years ago is one that both Managers as well as the players enjoy. Mixed in with this is the knowledge that if England had not done what they have done in the last 18 months they would themselves have sought friendly opposition elsewhere.
« We want to play the best to challenge ourselves. It’s a marker to see where we are, « said Lauren.
» It may have been easy for the coaching team to choose a team we can win against – that doesn’t mean we don’t Have a chance to win against England – but to play against players of this caliber. » We will be faced, can only be positive for us. «
It may still seem like madness to go to the lionesses den against a squad made up of the five best teams in the English WSL, but for Shiels there is a method, especially given the huge play off date.
« If you play at home for one of the teams in our domestic league, like most of our girls do, you are not used to playing opponents of this magnitude, » he said.
« They will play faster than we are used to, they are stronger than we are used to.
» You have everything – all the assets that it needs to be a sporty athlete. Why shouldn’t this be a really good experiment to visit that and try to fight it? «
» I think this is the ideal opponent when we are working hard and improving how fast we can play and how accurate we can play all the purpose and all the logic. «
For Lauren who after leaving Glasgow C ity is a free agent at Christmas, there is one eye on the present while the other is on the future for various reasons.
« Every game is an opportunity and for me as a free agent something could come of this game . My focus is on a good performance for Northern Ireland and the rest can follow, but it’s definitely a game that is there for me, « a showcase, » she said.
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