Manchester City defender Alex Greenwood says England come first over any club loyalties on international duty as the Lionesses look to take a big step towards the World Cup this week.
England Women take on North Macedonia tonight in their seventh World Cup qualifier out of ten, knowing they can extend their five-point lead over Austria and Northern Ireland, who play each other. If England beat North Macedonia, and then Northern Ireland on Tuesday, they could seal qualification this week if other results go their way, but Greenwood insists the Lionesses are only looking at their own results.
Speaking to MEN Sport for the ‘Where Greatness is Made’ campaign, Greenwood lifted the lid on the mood in camp with England Women this week and explained how players must turn off any City considerations for the good of the national team.
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“Like always it’s a happy camp, busy and fully concentrated on Friday,” she said.
“I know it’s the same saying but we don’t look beyond Friday or ifs, buts and maybes. Get the job done on Friday, professionally. We play our style of play, nothing changes regardless of the opposition and then we focus on Tuesday.”
Since chatting with MEN Sport earlier in the week, Greenwood has withdrawn from the squad and returned to City for ‘rehabilitation on an ongoing knee issue’, but will remain a key member of the England squad as they look forward to the home Euros this summer .
With eight City players called up to the initial squad, plus the injured Steph Houghton and the returning Chloe Kelly, there is a strong Manchester contingent in Sarina Weigman’s group. In fact, just two of the original players picked came from outside the Women’s Super League top four.
As City battle Manchester United for a top-three spot and Chelsea and Arsenal are neck-and-neck for the title, it could look from the outside that club rivalries could impact the harmony in the Lionesses camp.
Greenwood, however, insists that club loyalties are left at the door when players arrive at St George’s Park.
“I wouldn’t say so, I wouldn’t say it has an effect on the team. We create our own environment,” she explained.
“We create a culture that anyone who comes in from any club has each other’s backs, has respect for each other. It’s irrelevant what club you play at, you’re here to do a job and we respect each other for that. That’s massively important we have that culture for anyone to come in and feel welcome and perform at their top level without any pressure from outside.
“For me it doesn’t have anything to do with being at a top-four club it’s about the culture you create and now we’ve got a really good one.
“It’s hard for me to answer because it’s normal for me to play with the other City players, so I can’t imagine what it’s like without them there. It’s probably helped because I’m used to how those players play and I work with them every day at City.
“But club to country looks different and how you play at club is slightly different to how we play here. You have to adapt to that and the style of play. That’s something we do, regardless of the eight Man City players we all have mutual respect and when we put on the England shirt it’s all about England.”
Greenwood was speaking on behalf of the Nationwide campaign, ‘Where Greatness is Made’, aiming to shine a light on the history of women’s football, and where these trailblazers got their start.
She credited her family, plus former coaches Andy Spence and Mo Marley for their role in her development, while she named Steven Gerrard, Fara Williams and Kelly Smith as players she looked up to as a young footballer.
Now, she says it’s important for the current Lionesses to act as role models for the next generation – especially with increasing crowds in high profile women’s fixtures and a big home tournament in the summer.
She said: “It’s massively important to be a role model, I looked up to them and now we have young girls looking up to us. Trying to achieve something special and allow young girls to play football and aspire to be like us.
“We do that by winning football matches and playing a style that attracts not just girls but boys as well involved in football and play with confidence. It’s so important we have that available for young girls now. The game’s come on massively and is in a really good place, from where it was when I had idols.
“Young girls are now more fortunate position but that’s where it gets harder to get to the top level. Sacrifices are massively important but you’ve got to show what it takes to get to the top.
“The crowds recently are fantastic. I watched the Barcelona game [vs Real Madrid, with 91,000 fans] and I was jealous of the girls on the pitch. I’m also a fan of women’s football and I’m fortunate enough to play, but seeing things like that is quite priding and a fantastic day for the game.
“Moving forward hopefully in the Euros that’s something we see in the tournament. With the ticket sales we’ve seen there’s no reason why the crowds don’t look similar to that.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.