England goalkeeper Rachel Brown quit her job to focus on football
By Glenn Lavery in Slovenia
Slovenia v England
UEFA Women's Euro 2013
Group 6 qualifier
7pm BST, Thursday 21 June 2012
Ob Jezeru, Velenje, Slovenia
Keeping one clean sheet in one Euro qualifier might not sound like a huge deal for a goalkeeper, but for Rachel Brown
it proved to be one important step to vindicating a big decision she made earlier this year.
Brown was in goal on Sunday as England defeated Holland 1-0 in Salford
, a result which has wrestled qualification initiative from the Dutch. And it was also the occasion of Brown's 77th international cap.
The Everton stopper has been a fixture in the England set-up since 1997. She is the longest serving player in the current Three Lions squad, and she was Hope Powell's No.1 in both the 2007 World Cup in China and the 2009 European Championship in Finland.
However, in the last couple of seasons, the emergence of Karen Bardsley
has threatened Brown's status as England's first choice goalkeeper, forcing the 31-year-old Lancastrian into a rather drastic decision; she quit her day job as a PE teacher to focus on football.
"I just realised that I'm not going to play football for the rest of my life and I want to make sure that I get the most out of my career that I possibly can," explained Brown.
"To play to the standard that I would be happy with, I felt I needed to quit my job and dedicate myself 100 per cent to football. And to be honest, I am so happy with my decision.
"It was a tough decision because I'm getting married in a few months and we've obviously still got bills to pay, but I'm lucky I've got a supportive fiancé," she continued. "And it was something that I didn't want to regret a few years down the line, or, probably for the rest of my life.
"I would always do the training programme that was prepared for me, but I would go straight from work to do weights, get home, have a cup of tea, then go to training with Everton, get home at 11pm, be really tired and then stay up until the early hours writing a lesson plan for the next day, so they are obviously not ideal conditions for a footballer.
"But I now have a fresher mind and fresher body going into training and matches and I feel that I'm playing better than I have done in the past three, four, five years, which is fantastic.
"It has made such a massive difference. It's the best decision I could have made, I just hope it's not too late."
Before the Holland game on Sunday, Brown's last competitive appearance for England was the opening Euro 2013 qualifier away to Serbia last September
, but a fractured finger suffered by Bardsley on the eve of the Dutch game saw Brown get the nod between the sticks.
"It's not great to see any team-mate get injured and I really hope Karen recovers quickly, but I was delighted when I found out that I was Hope's next choice," said Brown.
"I was chuffed that Hope put her faith in me. I know I've got a lot of experience in big games, but that shouldn't count for anything.
"I knew it was a big game, probably the biggest of the campaign, and I knew I had some big boots to fill because Karen has been magnificent for us, she has really raised the bar.
"But I feel like my form with Everton has been really good and I have been feeling confident.
"Keeping a clean sheet was good for the defensive unit and it was a good achievement for me personally, too. And I think I put in a reasonably solid performance, so I'm happy. Now we move on. Hopefully I can retain my place for the Slovenia game and then perform to my best when I'm given the opportunity."
As she alluded to, Brown's, and England's, attention has now shifted to Slovenia and a game England must win to stay on the coat tails of the Dutch at the top of Group 6. Victories over the bottom two teams in the group, Slovenia and Croatia, would hand England a place at Sweden 2013 but Brown knows from experience, and the 2-2 draw with Serbia, that it won't be as easy as some might expect.
"Hopefully we will have learnt from the Serbia game," she said.
"We didn't go into the game feeling complacent in any way and we had about 30 shots on goal, so we were obviously trying to kill the game off.
"Things just didn't go our way in the end and we ended up conceding two goals in the second half, but we can't let it happen again.
"We did really well to beat Holland and now we have to make that result count. None of us want to entertain the thought of working so hard to get the three points against Holland and then slipping up against Slovenia.
"It will be very hot on Thursday, as it was against Serbia, so we need to keep the ball and make them chase it. And we have to take our chances when they come."
"We have to be smart and stay tight at the back the whole time.
"We've got a game plan, so hopefully we can implement it and get another three points."