Women's Senior
Women's Senior

England defender Demi Stokes stronger and smarter after eight-month lay-off

Thursday 30 May 2019
Demi Stokes made her senior team debut in January 2014

With Demi Stokes often cited as the strongest member of the squad, it came as somewhat of a surprise to her England team-mates when the 27-year-old was ruled out for eight months.

A complex hip injury suffered in the middle of 2018 forced her to miss nine internationals during her longest spell out of the game.

“They said it was quite a rare injury,” said Stokes. “I couldn’t lift my leg.”

The Manchester City defender can only blame herself for the setback, after pushing her body to the limit during the back end of the 2018 FA WSL season.

“I was struggling towards the end of that season,” she explained, “but I couldn’t help myself and I kept on playing – and pushed myself too far. My hip had just had enough.”

And so the long road to recovery began.

“I found it very tough in parts,” said Stokes, who lost 30 per cent of the muscle fibre in her right leg during her spell out.

“It was taking a long time and it didn’t seem to be getting any better. I had to re-train my leg just to lift it in the air.

“Generally though, I was alright with it. I was aware of what could happen if I just kept on playing, but I chose to keep on going. I was aware of the consequences but with four games of the season left I just thought I’d plough through.

“If I’d have known I’d have been out for seven or eight months I wouldn’t have played on. But you live and learn. There are worse things in the world.”

Stokes returned to action at the beginning of the year and worked her way into Phil Neville’s squad for France 2019.


And those long and lonely weeks spent on the treatment table and in the gym have forced Stokes to rethink her own approach to the physical side of the game.

“It wasn’t the worst injury you can get but it put things into perspective. I learned things from it.

“I need to be a bit more selfish. I’m someone that constantly pushes themselves. I’m always on the go. But sometimes I have to hold my hands up and admit to myself that I need a rest. We do train a lot, we play a lot of games and I now know that it’s OK to rest. I have to be smart and manage myself better.

“I’m not invincible.”

Stokes is one of only eight players in England’s World Cup squad to have amassed at least 50 caps, yet France 2019 will be her first appearance on football’s biggest stage.

Overlooked four years ago by former head coach Mark Sampson, Stokes played her way back into the England fold and was a key member of the Lionesses squad that reached the semi-final of Euro 2017.

“Only so many people can go to a World Cup but it obviously wasn’t great to miss out,” said Stokes on her omission for Canada 2015.

“But I can’t be too hard on myself because I did everything I could [in order] to be selected. It just wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t my year.

“My mindset never changed, though. I always train and play to the best of my ability.

“Now I know I just have to be smarter.”

England’s open their World Cup campaign against Scotland on Sunday 9 June. Then it’s Argentina on Friday 14 June and Japan on Wednesday 19 June.

By Glenn Lavery