With Doncaster Rovers now safe in the FAWPL, Vicky Exley is looking forward to England v Norway.
After playing a key role in the FA Nationwide Women’s Premier League survival of Doncaster Rovers Belles, proud Yorkshire girl Vicky Exley is looking forward to playing for England against Norway in her home county.The Rotherham born midfielder will head into Friday 06 May’s encounter with the Norwegians at Barnsley’s Oakwell Stadium safe in the knowledge that her beloved club will be playing top flight football again next season.
As captain, 29 year-old Exley - in her 10th season with the Belles - had led from the front during a difficult campaign which followed the departure of no fewer than eight internationals from the club last summer.
Exley refused to join the mass exodus and stood firm despite Donny looking odds-on for relegation for the vast majority of the season. So it was fitting that she hit the goal which ensured the Belles would avoid the drop for the first time in their history.
After heading the winner against Birmingham City to lift her team out of the relegation zone in their last match of the season, Exley said: "I love the club and I couldn't have left when a lot of the other players went.
"It's been a really hard season, but I never lost hope that we would stay up. After I’d scored midway through the second half against Birmingham though, it was the longest 30 minutes of my life - I kept asking the referee how long there was to go!
"But we were the better side on the day, we got the win we wanted and it’s great for everyone at the club. It has been tough, there’s no denying that, but the team spirit has been the best I’ve ever known it and that says a lot for everybody involved.
"It’s tremendous how we’ve kept ourselves up after the position we were in not so long ago. We came good towards the end of the season thanks to some new signings, and next season I’m confident we’ll be back at the top end of the table."
Ahead of next season Exley is hoping to be part of the England squad for the Women’s Euro 2005, which will kick off in the north west of England less than a month after Thursday’s friendly international against Norway.
The game at Oakwell will be the last chance that England’s players will get to stake their claims for a place in National Coach Hope Powell’s 20-player squad, which has to be announced by Thursday, 26 May.
"It’s a vital game for all of us," said Exley. "I’m desperate to be in the squad for the tournament, but so are the rest of the girls who are will be involved the Norway game and there’s plenty of competition for places.
"We’ll all be giving it everything we’ve got on Thursday night, and it will certainly take a hundred per cent commitment from every player that gets on the pitch if we are going to get a result against Norway.
"They’re a top team and they’ll give us a really hard test, but that’s exactly what we need leading up to the Euros and I just hope I can play a part in the match – especially as it’s in my neck of the woods.
"There’s a lot of support for women’s football around here and we had a decent crowd last time we played at Oakwell, against Portugal about five years ago, so I’m expecting the same again and it should be a great match in a great atmosphere."