Staying power helps Ifeoma Dieke fulfil her goal at Euros

Gemma Fay, Ifeoma Dieke and Julie Fleeting during the opening of a new Scottish FA Women's International Roll of Honour display at Hampden. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
Gemma Fay, Ifeoma Dieke and Julie Fleeting during the opening of a new Scottish FA Women's International Roll of Honour display at Hampden. Picture: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
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Ifeoma Dieke insists she is not one to dwell on the past and “takes each day as it comes” but when she finally achieves her career-long dream of taking to the field for Scotland in a major tournament on Wednesday she admits it will be impossible not to cast her mind back to former team-mates who would dearly have loved to have had the chance.

The 36-year-old is in line to make her 121th appearance in the highly-anticipated Group D opener against England in Utrecht and admits it has been a long time coming.

“Aye, so many failures but it just makes it sweeter,” said the veteran defender, who now plays her club football in Sweden. “And to do it with a couple of us who have been there from the start is really good.

“To do it with these people is special, but it’s about the past too. When I look at my room-mates from the past like Megan [Sneddon], Rhonda [Jones], Hammy [Pauline Hamill], Fleets [Julie Fleeting], Shelley [Kerr]… that group. It’s kind of like they paved the way.

“Some of the girls now weren’t even born. You look at [18-year-old midfielder] Erin [Cuthbert] and see the age gap. They were the trailblazers and to be part of that group to me will hold a lot of significance. To be among the first to represent Scotland at a tournament that’s just a little cherry on top that I have, but they were all part of it and hopefully they feel part of it. There were a lot of steps and it’s been a big journey. I’m glad to be a part of.”

The defender was one of the 12 international women’s players, along with many of those she just mentioned, honoured by the SFA on the eve of the squad’s departure to the Netherlands with the launch of a hall of fame at Hampden’s Scottish Football Museum for those who have won more than 100 caps.

Dieke has had a taste of the international big stage as she got the chance to represent Great Britain in the London 2012 Olympics, one of only two Scots along with Kim Little, whose injury has been such a blow to coach Anna Signeul ahead of Euro 2017.

Dieke herself suffered a terrible knee ligament injury in the second pool game of the Olympic tournament and, while it was a crushing blow at the time, she reckons that may have given her the chance to take part in these groundbreaking championships, where Scotland will also face Portugal and Spain in the group stage.

“I always thought it would happen for the team, but for me maybe not,” admitted Dieke. “Post-Olympics when I had done my knee I thought that Euros in Sweden would be my last chance. I lost two years but maybe, in a way, gained two years because that break has prolonged me to this stage I feel.

“So I lost one chance, but gained one in the end.”

Dieke can’t wait for that England game to kick-off now.

“I know a lot of the English players from Team GB and having played against a lot of them over a number of years. It’s going to be a tough game to start off with, but if I had to choose the order of games I would have picked that first.

“They’ve already stated that they want to win the tournament, so there will be pressure on them from the get go.”

And this is definitely the swansong? “I believe so. I think it will be a great way to go out. I’m pretty sure that [the 2019 World Cup in] France is...no, I can’t see it.”