While 2011 was widely considered the biggest ever year for women’s football in this country, Hope Powell is not one to rest on her laurels, and although we are just ten days into the New Year, the England Women’s National Coach has already demanded a week of hard graft from 47 international players.
In 2011, women’s football was boosted by the launch of The FA WSL, an eight-team semi-professional league which really raised the standard of the domestic game, England’s inclusion in the World Cup Finals and the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final being staged at Craven Cottage.
This year the London Olympics will rightly attract a lot of attention, but England have three crucial UEFA Euro 2013 qualifiers to contend with before focus shifts to the Olympics, and Powell has today taken two different squads to La Manga for a warm weather training camp.
“We’ve been doing it for probably nine, ten years now,” she said, of her penchant for a New Year trip to Spain.
“Conditions [in England] in January [are] quite cold and the environment to get some real good quality training in with the players is quite difficult.
So to take them somewhere mid-January where the weather is a little bit warmer, it means we can do a lot of focused work, hard work.
“We will train twice a day, really condensed, really quite demanding and the conditions are conducive to that.
It’s a really good environment, more importantly we get a lot of good work done in good conditions.”
For the first time, Powell’s senior squad will be joined in La Manga by Brent Hills’ Under-23 squad, which includes eleven players who won the UEFA European Women’s U19 Championship in 2009, under the stewardship of Mo Marley.
“The Under-23s were due to go to a [training] camp in February,” explained Powell, “[but] we are now going to put them in a tournament, so [having them in La Manga] gives me a chance to look at those players.
“It gives [the Under-23s] the chance to be around some of the senior players and aspire to be the future internationals, so [there will be] a lot of players. It means we can get a lot of work done and hopefully that will bode well for 2012.”
In just over a month’s time, England will play their first fixture of the year, against Finland in the annual Cyprus Cup, a tournament which, this year, will be used as preparation for the Euro qualifier away to Croatia at the end of March. Switzerland and France, who knocked England out of the World Cup in the summer, will also provide the opposition in Cyprus before the Three Lions return to competitive action.
England complete their qualification campaign with games against Holland (at home, 17 June), Slovenia (away, 21 June) and Croatia (home, 19 September).
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