Monday 10 July 2017

Bardsley: We’re in it to win it

Karen Bardsley believes England can follow up their World Cup bronze medal success with gold at the Euros.

With less than a week to go until the tournament kicks off on Sunday 16 July, excitement is building as the Lionesses look to build on their 2015 accomplishments – both on and off the pitch.

Mark Sampson’s side, whose spirit and determination in Canada captured the hearts of millions to arouse national interest in the women’s game, will lock horns with Scotland, Spain and Portugal in Group A.

City shot-stopper Bardsley, who made her senior international debut back in 2005, asserts her side are seeking nothing less than a first-place finish to continue to further develop the sport.

“We’re really excited and we really want to do well,” she told ManCity.com.

“The ultimate goal – we’re not going to shy away from it – is that we want to win the tournament.

“We set our standards high. There’s no point in going to a tournament and not wanting to win it.

“We’ve prepared well with training camps and some challenging friendlies. We’ve had the opportunity to be together more, working on different match preparation situations and game plan evolution. That’s been a lot of fun.

“We’re feeling really relaxed but really confident. Everyone feels like they’re in a good place. I’m really looking forward to it and hoping to do even better than we did at the World Cup.”

Bardsley is one of seven City stars to have been selected by Sampson – a fact she feels can only benefit the squad.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” she reflected. “I’ve seen people progress through the ranks from the U23s to thee first-team.

“You know what they’re capable of doing but you also know a bit more about them in terms of relationships and comforts. It’s nice to have that relationship there, underpinning everything.”

Meanwhile, England’s clash with Scotland will see City teammates go head-to-head against Jane Ross, while they could also meet fellow Blue Kosovare Asllani and new recruit Mie Jans in later rounds.

Interesting meetings await, says Bardsley.

“It’s funny to think we’ll be playing against teammates,” she added. “It will be a bit weird because we’re friends off the pitch but one you cross that line – especially in a major competition – it all goes out of the window for 90 minutes!

“It’ll be tough. We know everyone is very talented in their own right and each of us will have some inside information. It will be like a game of chess!”

Asked who she feels will fare well in Holland, Bardsley predicted: “I’m expected France to do quite well and of course, the Germans are always up there.

“The French had a massive SheBelieves tournament this year. I remember watching their game against the US and it was quite a display.

“At the same time, as was ours. I’d imagine there will be some dark horses. I don’t think you can rule out the host nation. They’ve always got an extra boost in a tournament.

“I wouldn’t put it past Norway or Sweden to be there or thereabouts as well. Even Iceland are a very improved side.

“I think it will be a close competition and it will be tough to say who’s going to come out on top.”

Despite a notable time difference, a staggering 2.38million people tuned in at midnight UK time to cheer on Sampson’s side in the semi-finals in Canada.

One of five English City representatives, Bardsley revealed the significance of the support her side received – particularly from Manchester-based fans.

She recalled: “It was a really amazing experience being with City while we were at the World Cup with England.

“It was amazing support for us that underpinned our success and saw us through the build-up and the World Cup itself.

“We had a lot of messages of support from a lot of the City supporters and the Club itself.

“Afterwards, the success we had was used as an opportunity to grow the women’s game more and use it as a stepping stone.”

When the England team returned home to their respective Clubs, they received a heroines’ welcome.

Domestic attendances rose and ‘women’s football fever’ took over, thanks to increased media coverage. Young people had clear role models to look up to in the women’s game and career pathways were unlocked.

Bardsley hopes for a similar upsurge come autumn, particularly with the league’s change in format.

“Switching from the Spring Series to the winter season is new and exciting,” she smiled.

“It will be fun to have lots of games and to be in line with the men’s season.

“There will be a big buzz around the Club and what we’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll have more fans coming through.”

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