As the only woman to captain England to a major tournament final, former Lionesses skipper Faye White knows a thing or two about what it will take for Sarina Wiegman and her side to succeed at the Women’s European Championship next month.
A legend of the women’s game, White captained the national side through four major international tournaments and remains the longest-serving England Women's captain, having worn the armband for over a decade before retiring in 2013.
One of the most decorated players of her generation, White is one of just a few players to have already enjoyed a European Championship on home soil, having captained Hope Powell’s Three Lions during the Women’s Euros in 2005.
And with the full 23-player Lionesses squad announcement expected tomorrow, anticipation for Euro 2022 is at fever pitch, with England getting their campaign underway at a sold out Old Trafford stadium – and the 90-times-capped White understands why Wiegman’s England side are seen as one of the tournament’s favourites.
“We saw last year with the men’s team what a home crowd can do. When you’re abroad, you are in a little bubble – you don’t really get the sense of what it is like at home during a tournament”, she said.
"Even things like the bus driving up to the stadium. I remember back in 2005, when we arrived at the City of Manchester stadium with 30k fans backing us. The buzz around the stadium, the floods of young families with players’ names on the back of their shirts – it gives you that little bit extra when it is in your own country.
"When it happened for us, there was a sense of ‘oh my God, this is happening in our country and the game is getting recognition’ and there will be experienced players like Steph (Houghton), Jill (Scott) and Ellen (White) who will understand where the game has grown from, and will tell the younger players what it is like to walk out in front of a sold out home crowd.
"They will realise how important it all is. It is huge, it gives you that extra 50%-plus of adrenaline, desire and determination, and that matters during a match, knowing that full support is for you. We saw it in 2017, where massive home crowds and a big social media following helped the Dutch win Euro 2017 on home soil.
"It’s a huge opportunity.”
And, while there is plenty of excitement for the competing home nations of England and Northern Ireland, White admits she is disappointed Scotland are not involved in the tournament.
"I am a big supporter of all of them (the home nations). We have always had good rivalries, and I’ve played with a lot of the players in the past.
"I want them to do well, so naturally you want the likes of Jen Beattie, Kim Little and Caz (Caroline Weir) to be able to experience these kind of tournaments, especially with it being so close to home for them. They would want to show how good they can be in major tournaments on our soil.
"It’s all about the development of the game. You need to play in major tournaments, we knew that even back in 2001 during my first Euros.
"Those types of experiences of playing in top tournaments against top teams is what pushes you on and shows you what level you have to get to, so the Euros will be vital for sides like Northern Ireland.”
The former Arsenal and England defender was speaking ahead of Nationwide and England Football’s Mutual Respect partnership, who are installing plaques to showcase the icons of the women’s game in England – including White – ahead of the European Championship.
The partnership looks to showcase the importance of respect – on and off the pitch – for the next generation of women players.