Toni Duggan believes her experiences in the England development teams has given her the best chance of excelling in this summer’s World Cup finals.
The Manchester City striker was named in Mark Sampson’s squad for Canada 2015.
It will be Duggan’s maiden experience of a senior World Cup, but she hopes her appearance at two U20s World Cups, in 2008 and 2010, will provide her with the platform to shine this summer.
She said: “That’s what youth football and youth tournaments are there for, so that you’re ready for the big occasions with the seniors.
“I’ve definitely had some great experiences with the England youth teams and I can’t thank the players and the staff in the younger age groups enough for the help and support that I’ve had. It has played a massive part in making me the player I am today.
“I felt that at the Euros in 2013. I’d been to four European Championships before in the younger age groups. It was the same sort of set-up and organisation, obviously just at a different level.
“Youth football makes the transition easier. You know what to expect from a World Cup or a Euros before you get there with the seniors.
“I’m grateful that I’ve had those opportunities and hopefully they will pay off when I get to Canada.”
Duggan played a big part in helping the Lionesses qualify for the World Cup, scoring 10 goals in the qualifying campaign – a tally which went some way to her being voted the Vauxhall England Women’s Player of the Year for 2014.
However, knee surgery at the beginning of 2015 put her World Cup place in jeopardy and she expressed huge relief at being named in England’s 23-player squad.
Duggan added: “It’s a massive achievement and I’m delighted to be a part of it and part of a great group of girls. We all know the competition to get on the plane was tough so I’m delighted that my place is secured.
“I’m just glad I’ve been given this opportunity.
“I had a difficult start to the year because I didn’t really know what was going on with my knee until it was actually operated on.
“The first thing that sprung to mind was the World Cup. As a player, you want to start the year with a confidence and a belief that you can make it to the World Cup and then all of a sudden I’m on the operating table.
“It was frustrating but I’ve had to work hard. I’m glad that I’ve got a few games under my belt and I’m starting to feel sharp again.
“Hopefully the operation has actually done some good in that I can feel fresh coming into the World Cup.”
After a flawless World Cup qualifying campaign, England suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time under Sampson’s watch, against Germany last November and USA, but Duggan said those results have only made the team stronger.
She explained: “We needed to test ourselves against the best and that’s exactly what we've done.
“We’re going into a World Cup against some top teams and some teams that are perhaps a bit of an unknown quantity, so it was vital that we played against countries like Sweden, Germany, USA and China in the build-up to Canada. They were all great tests for us.
“And winning the Cyprus Cup was a big confidence booster for the team as well.
“We’ve had some ups and downs along the way, but we’ve definitely learnt from them.
“No matter what happens in Canada we are prepared for it.”