Casey Stoney is still at the peak of her formidable powers – but she is already bullet-proofing herself for the future.
The 34-year-old helped Arsenal win the SSE Women’s FA Cup less than three weeks ago, and was then named in the England squad for a Euro 2017 qualifying double-header against Serbia.
However, Stoney is already thinking about a life away from the pitch; specifically one on the touchline.
England v Serbia
UEFA Women’s Euro 2017
Group 7 qualifier
5.30pm, Saturday 4 June 2016
Adams Park, Wycombe Wanderers FC
Live on BBC Two
Tickets priced £7.50 adults, £3.50 children
The Gunners defender began her studies for the UEFA A Licence, the second highest qualification in the game, in January. She is joined on the course by Lionesses team-mate Laura Bassett, Arsenal colleagues Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey and Emma Byrne and Donny Belles striker Natasha Dowie.
Focusing on the finer tactical aspects of the 11v11 game as well teaching candidates how to deal with agents, sponsors and a club board, the A Licence is a pre-requisite for any coach wanting to work in the professional game.
And having played at the elite level for so long, Stoney is now relishing being on the other side of the fence.
“Since I’ve been doing my A Licence, the way I see the game is different,” she said. “I’d strongly advise any player to go on it while they’re still playing. It absolutely improves you.
“It’s an amazing course. We’re not taught just so we can pass an assessment, we’re taught so we can become better coaches. I think that’s really important. The tutors will make sure we won’t pass until we are ready to pass. They want to make us the best coaches we can be, and that is key. It’s so important as a coach that you represent the game in the right way.
“Tactically, it’s really making me think and it’s helping me on the pitch. There is so much to the course and we’ve only just started.”
Stoney got on the coaching ladder in her teens. She enrolled on a Level 2 course while still a youngster at Arsenal and completed her UEFA B Licence a couple of years ago.
And she has held a number of important roles already. She coached the U18 boys at the David Beckham Academy and headed up the centres of excellence at both Lincoln Ladies and Chelsea Ladies, where she also had a stint as player-manager for half a season.
She explained: “I’ve done a lot of coaching already. It’s the second best thing to playing. I love it. I know I’ve got an awful lot to learn but the journey of learning excites me.
“I started coaching as a teenager and as I’ve developed as a player and a coach I have learned so much about the game. This is a sport where you never stop learning.
“Coaching ignites my passion. Every time I go on a coaching course I come away inspired and wanting to learn more. I also want to try and use what I’ve learned as a player over the last 20 years and try and bring it back into the game.”
In 2014 Stoney had the opportunity to work with England Women’s U19s boss Mo Marley in the build-up to a friendly against Norway.
Marley is one of England’s most successful coaches. She led a squad including Lucy Bronze, Toni Duggan and Jordan Nobbs to European Championship glory in 2009, while three more of her sides picked up silver medals in a run of four finals in seven seasons.
Stoney said: “Mo was brilliant. I learned so much about the other side of international football. The hours the coaches put in and the amount of detail they go into. The amount of organisation that has to go into the day-to-day running of an international camp is unbelievable. Mo gave me some great feedback afterwards which was invaluable, something for me to look at and work on.
“The biggest thing I took away from that camp was that the players love her. They all listen to her and want to play for her. If you’ve got that relationship as a coach, you’re halfway to winning. Any coach could learn from her.”
Stoney hopes to complete the second part of her A Licence either later this year or early next year, if she can squeeze it in between playing for Arsenal and England, as well as raising young twins. But she will find the time.
“If you want to be a good coach you need to put the hours in, so I need to get on the grass as much as I can.
Interested in coaching?
“I want to play as long as I can and I know that I’m more than capable of performing well for club and country. But when I do retire, I want to stay in the game and I want to coach. I’d actually like to work in a boys’ set-up for a little while to learn how things work with them day-to-day and what the similarities and differences are.
“But I’d obviously love to coach in the women’s game longer term. I want to be fully prepared before I commit to anything. I want to be in a good place as a coach before I take on any big job.”
She continued: “Every single day I’m learning. I’ve picked up loads of positive things from Mark Sampson over the last two years, about the way he runs the environment.
“As a coach, you’re constantly learning, constantly evolving and trying to soak things up.”
Tickets for the Serbia match at Wycombe on Saturday are still available, priced £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for children. A family ticket priced £15 (two adults and two children) is also available.
Tickets can be bought via TheFA.com/Tickets or by calling 01494 441 118.