Thursday, 26 November, 2009
Karen Carney feeling “refreshed” after hectic 12 months
Glenn Lavery in Izmir
Judging by Karen Carney’s cameo appearance against Turkey, the England Women’s team could benefit greatly from Hope Powell’s decision to rest the attacking midfielder for the opening World Cup Qualifier against Malta last month.
The 22-year-old has just laboured through 12 months of constant football and Powell believed omitting her from the squad in October would allow Carney time to recharge her batteries.
The year of football began late last summer when she kicked off the season with her former club Arsenal. By the turn of the year, she had helped put them in a strong position in The FA Women’s Premier League and also assisted their progress to the latter rounds of both The FA Women’s Premier League Cup and The FA Women’s Cup. But then Arsenal announced that Carney would leave the club at the end of February in order to pursue a career in America with Chicago Red Stars.
The Women’s Professional Soccer League began its season in April and Carney featured in 17 games for the Red Stars, scoring twice. Their season concluded in August but there was to be no respite for Carney as she flew straight to Finland to help England collect a silver medal at the European Championship.
She admits that this continuous period of football left her physically and mentally drained but having enjoyed some time off she is now eager to aid England’s qualification to the 2011 World Cup in Germany.
“I’m still quite young and I have played a lot of football in the past couple of seasons,” Carney said. “I just felt mentally and physically tired so it was good to have a bit of a break.
“It was Hope’s decision to rest me for the Malta game. I put myself in contention, as I always do, but Hope opted against selecting me and I fully accept her decision. Looking back I think it was a good decision because I got to spend some time with my family and I feel refreshed again.”
Carney was recalled to the England squad for the World Cup Qualifier in Turkey, though she says she never expected to be selected having played such little football in the last couple of months. However, with England hitherto unable to break down their hosts, Powell called upon the talented forward player to come off the bench and make an impact, and make an impact she did, setting up Alex Scott to score the all-important opening goal.
“Hope told me to go on and play through the middle,” Carney recalled. “I was relishing that challenge but then I got switched out to the right. I played a part in the goal but that’s my job. As an attacking player I’ve got to get involved and create goals. Ideally, we would have liked to have scored a couple more but the three points are the most important thing.
“As a footballer you enjoy the challenge of teams coming at you and it’s so frustrating when eleven players just sit behind the ball. They want to just play for the draw and you soon let your good habits turn to bad habits.
“We all knew that once one went in the floodgates should open. It’s a shame we didn’t score a little earlier because I think we would have had a lot more goals and it would have been nice to increase our goal difference, but it’s three points. It was frustrating, but for me, it was just good to get out there and play. I just love being on the pitch, it’s where I feel at home. Even if I hadn’t have got on today I was ecstatic just be back involved again. I’m ready to fight to get my place back.”
England now sit on six points from six and have two games in hand on Group Five leaders, Spain, who themselves have maintained a 100 per cent start, after four matches. It looks increasingly like a two-way tussle for top spot in the group but Carney refuses to get carried away.
“Every game is important,” she professed. “We’ve played Austria before and they’re a decent team and every team in the world seems to be getting better and better. It’s not just about the games against Spain because if we lose points against Austria we could potentially be dead and buried by the time Spain comes around, so we shouldn’t get arrogant or too far ahead of ourselves, we’ll just take each game as it comes.”
The next game for England isn’t until next March, against Austria, but two wins from two in their opening Qualifiers leaves them in a handy position going into 2010. But looking back on her busy 2009, Carney reveals her motivation to keep on improving.
“Personally, I have enjoyed every moment of this last year. I’ve been very fortunate to have played in an amazing league in America, the Euros were amazing and, in a way, I’m quite glad we got silver because it gives us something to aim for. If you haven’t got a challenge, what’s the point? You may as well go home.
“As a team, we’ve let everyone know that we’re a big nation now. We’ve put ourselves on the map but now we have to keep going forward.”