October saw international recognition for three of Sheffield United Women's first team members. Bex Rayner, Sam Tierney and Liverpool-loanee Ellie Fletcher all received call-ups to an England Under-21 camp. This is not the first time the trio have been involved in the Lioness set-up with all three having represented England at youth levels. Sadly, Bex had to pull out of the recent camp due to an injury she sustained during the first half of the Aston Villa match at Bramall Lane.
We sat down with Ellie and Sam on their return from camp to learn a little bit more about what an international experience entails and what it means to them.
Congratulations to you both on your call-ups for England U21 camp! How did it feel when you heard you had been selected?
Sam: Delighted! I was gutted not to be involved in the (U20s) World Cup squad but I've been continuing to work hard so I saw it as a good opportunity for me to show what I had been doing in training recently.
Ellie: I was obviously very happy when I got the email through, especially because I didn't expect it! It was nice to be back involved in the England set up after being injured for so long last year and having to cut my time at the U19s so short, so yes I was really pleased.
What was your daily routine when at the England camp?
Sam: It would vary depending on daily outcomes and loading but generally we wake up and have samples & monitoring first thing.
Ellie: Monitoring is usually just letting the medical team know how we slept and how sore we feel in the morning. It's just stuff like that.
Sam: This is followed by breakfast and then if anybody needs it, treatment. We then have a session briefing before our training session. Recovery is important so that is straight after the session and then we have lunch. After we then review the training session and sometimes have a meeting if there is anything that we are specifically looking at. People can then get treatment if they need it and we head the gym. This is followed by another meeting before dinner. Depending on the time, we then have either down time or head for our rooms for bed.
Ellie: Like Sam said. Our routine is pretty similar each day. Some of the free time for those in education, like myself, is ideal to get some work done!
As a player, what do you get most from training with the England squad?
Sam: The experience and knowledge the staff have at both club and international level means I have the opportunity to challenge and progress my learning with some of the best coaches in the country. Also training with the girls from other clubs at a high intensity allows me to improve my game by facing different challenges to everyday club football.
Ellie: You learn so much while being away with England. You get to train with the best players for your age group for a couple of days, so you're always picking up details of how other players from different clubs do things in certain situations. I try to take on board all the information the coaches give us and hopefully that will help to make me into a better player.
How has the success and the increase in following for the Lionesses spurred you on as a player to compete for your country?
Sam: I think it's obvious to see how the women's game is going, at all levels. But, the competition for the England seniors is now higher than ever and that's exciting. The opportunities available to learn from these players, and hopefully in years to come be in their position, is something to really look forward to and work hard towards. Phil Neville is proving that he is looking to vary and mix his squad as well as continuously looking to reward players for their work at club level which is something refreshing and important in my eyes.
Ellie: The recent success of the seniors has created a massive following for women's football which is great. They've also inspired all of us players in the youth age groups and show that with a lot of hard work and commitment, we as players can not only qualify for major tournaments but also do really well in them. That has definitely motivated me, to be able to play for the seniors and in major tournaments in the future, it's something to aspire to.
Sheffield United Men's first team also saw international success as nine Blades were called up to represent their respective countries.
Sheffield United Women travel to face Charlton Athletic on 21st October for their fourth game of their WSL Championship campaign.