'We're becoming a force'
Friday, 04 June, 2010
Mo Marley praises work as England prepare for Euro Final.
England Women’s U19s Head Coach Mo Marley says that reaching the UEFA European Women’s U19 Championship Final for the third time in four years is a major achievement for her team and is reflective of the efforts gone into the whole game in the last ten years.
The Three Lions are currently holders of the title, having also reached the Final in 2007, and are looking to become the first England side in 26 years to retain a major honour. They meet France in Skopje on Saturday afternoon, but despite this year’s run to the Final, her players will not be satisfied unless they lift the trophy.
Expectations have been rising as England have gone from a side aiming just to qualify for tournaments, to one who turn up as favourites as one of the team's to beat. This year’s campaign has been a huge success. With just one defeat in the last 22 games Marley hopes her team can step up their performance on Saturday and claim a piece of history for the country.
“This reflects the bigger picture of what we’ve been doing with the women’s game,” Marley told TheFA.com. “There’s a continuity and year in year out, not only are the players better prepared because of the experiences at each age group, but the expectations are set higher.
“The players are always pushing themselves to become better and better, and success begins to become the norm. Anything less than reaching the Final goes down as a disappointment in the players’ minds.
“The players have created that environment themselves. Each year they’ve stepped up another level. Half of this group didn’t play a lot last year, but now they want to go out and prove that they are worthy to play and have the chance to win a gold medal.
“It becomes a cycle and the next group of players want to achieve what the previous team has already won. It’s great that we’re knocking on the door in all the major competitions.”
Becoming a champion is one thing, but successfully defending the crown is another and Marley, who is also Head Coach of Women’s Premier League club Everton, believes that England are now one of the leading sides in Europe. With that comes a whole new set challenges and maintaining the standards is something the coach will be focused on.
“Teams are showing England a lot of respect and other nations are intrigued by the transformations we have made,” explained the former Three Lions defender. “People who know what we do realise that it’s not just happened over the last couple of years, but it’s been a long process and has shown the strategy in place has been productive.
“The hard bit now is making sure we sustain that level. The aspiration is consistent goal medals and you have to equate that to the likes of Germany who have done it year in year out. We want success to become a habit for everybody. It inspires our players and can send different messages to the opposing countries – England has become a bit of a force.”
Now England are 90 minutes away from what they hope will be another piece of silverware – and the second in a week after the men’s U17s became European Champions last weekend. France stand in the way, however, and will provide Marley’s team with a very stern test.
The French are a side England have not faced too much in recent years. The last meeting came in Harrogate in 2007 when the visitors went back across the channel having won 3-1.
Marley will prepare her team to understand the threats their opponents will pose, but equally, she believes that if England play to their high standards, they can beat anyone.
“We haven’t played them very often of late, so our experience of France will come from the games we’ve watched. We’ll be prepared for them but we also feel that if we get our game right and do what we do then we’re capable of beating anybody.
“We’ve got to tidy up a few things in our own game, but we’ll get that right in line with the opposition we are playing and it’ll give us the best chance to try and retain the trophy.”
And that kind of mentality will be needed next month, when many of this squad will be in contention for a place at the FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup. England qualified for the Finals in Germany, which begin on 13 July, thanks to their success in Europe last year, and Marley says that squad places are open to those players who prove themselves during this tournament in Macedonia.
“Everybody has an opportunity to be selected and we’ve said to the players here that if you can show that you can deliver and perform on a European stage, then you’ll give yourselves a chance,” explained Marley.
“Players have to prove that they can perform in Europe before they make that step up to world class material, but if they want to be involved in the World Cup then it’s a chance to show that they are capable.”
And where better to prove you can take on the World but in the European Championship Final?