Karen Carney announced her retirement from football on Friday, and speaking ahead of England’s World Cup third-place game and what will be her final appearance, the Chelsea midfielder spoke in depth about her decision.
On her decision to retire...
“I’ve probably known for quite a while now. My mind still wants to do everything and it can, but I don’t think my body can anymore.
“I think you’ve seen the level and the growth of the game and how fantastic it’s become and that’s a credit to everybody.
“And my mind would want me to continue until I’m 100, but there’s a time when your body says enough is enough and I think I’ve got to that point
“I remember reading a quote from Birgit Prinz, one of the greatest female players ever, and she said you keep going until you’ve got nothing else in the tank and I don’t think I have anymore.
“So I think that’s why the time is right for me. I’ve given my heart and soul for my clubs wherever I’ve played and especially my country.
“I don’t think there’s anything more I could physically or mentally give and I have no regrets with how that has happened.
“I don’t think it was a hard decision in terms of knowing, as when you know, you know. I’ve probably thought about it for two years now, which sounds really weird, but there were moments when you want to keep going and keep going.
“But there was a point when I got back from the SheBelieves Cup and said ‘I’m done’.
“I went to see [Chelsea manager] Emma Hayes and I told her I’m done. She thought I meant internationally, but I meant completely as I can’t give anything more.
“I’m maxed out, I’ve gone for every percentage gain that I could to be the best that I could be and it’s just time.
“I’ll miss singing the anthem, that’ll be tough, but also the thing I’ll miss most is just kicking a ball and being like a little kid.”
The big reveal…
“I only told them [the England squad] an hour ago, so I remember it quite vividly. Phil [Neville] and Emma had known for about six months, but as a group, we said to keep it between ourselves. That was the right decision because ultimately, at that time, I didn’t know I was being selected for the World Cup and it was just an objective.
“I feel bad I didn’t even tell my family, so even my sister didn’t even know and she read it, so I’m sorry Emma!
“I wanted to keep it to myself for me personally to focus on the job in hand because when you play for your country you want to focus on that and if I’d said anything before, it would’ve taken it off what I wanted to do.”
“Probably a career highlight would be when I told my mum when I was 11 that I would play for England, and then at 17 doing it.
“It’s ironic with what’s coming up now [Euro 2021 in England], but the highlight for me was Euro 2005 in England.
“It was my first tournament and I was literally the water girl as no-one knew who I was – I’m still the water girl now – and we just went and had fun.
“Everyone tells me that was a big moment for women’s football, it was my first tournament and it was in England, so it’s going to be unbelievable in 2021.
“I’ve got goosebumps thinking about it and how lucky the players and the staff are going to be. That tournament with all the buzz and the energy, I can envision fans walking to games with the female players’ names on the back and that’s all we ever dreamed of.
“As an 11-year-old I never dreamed that would happen, but it has and it will happen.
“It’s something we should be really excited about, the future, and it’s ironic that my career highlight was probably the home Euros in 2005 and looking forward, there’s one coming up very soon and it’s one to be excited about.”
Where would you have been without football?
“In the nicest possible way, my first job was at Sainsbury’s, as that’s where my mum worked and I was a bag packer so I probably would’ve worked my way up the ladder there.
“I wasn’t very good at school either so I wouldn’t have gone to university or anything like that, so I don’t know and I’m so grateful to football in so many ways and wouldn’t change anything.
“I don’t where I would be, but I would’ve worked hard in whatever I did because of the way my parents taught me.”GET INVOLVED IN GIRLS & WOMEN’S FOOTBALL
“Moving forward, I don’t really know what I want to do. There is an opportunity within the media for me, but I would like to give back to football in some way if I’m able to help.
“All I do know is that I’m going to spend some time with my family because it feels like I haven’t been able to do that.
“As a footballer, you’re so selfish and self-driven to get to places that sometimes you forget the most important people. It’s not in a malicious way, but because you’re so driven that you have to do what you have to do.
“So I have to give back to the people that have supported me and I’m nothing without my family so I’m grateful to them and I want to give back to them now, give them love and hugs and be there for their big moments as well.”