Carly Telford has had almost a year playing mother hen on international duty and as England prepare to face Germany on Tuesday the goalkeeper has reprised the role for the latest training camp.
At 33 the Chelsea player says she is “officially the grandma of the group” and with the 19-year-old Birmingham goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, Manchester City’s 21-year-old Ellie Roebuck and the 22-year-old Everton keeper Sandy MacIver under her wing, she is not wrong.
Although Telford is second choice behind Germany’s Ann-Katrin Berger at Chelsea, Phil Neville has favoured her for the more pastoral role ahead of Manchester United’s Mary Earps and the long-time England No 1 Karen Bardsley, who has struggled with injuries in recent years.
“My role is to keep driving the standards and setting the Lioness standards,” says Telford, who made her international debut in March 2007. “It’s helping them understand what it’s like to be a Lioness goalkeeper, how we play, how we train, how we act. But they’re all professional, so it’s nothing different to what they do at their clubs. I think it’s trying to make them understand that that is what got them here and that they don’t have to try and do anything different than just be who they are.”
Telford is not part of the squad just to be its memory, passing on lessons and legacy to the new crop who are “not shy in reminding me how old I am”, she says with a laugh. She still has plenty to give and is doing everything to “make sure that I’m still ahead of them, just a little bit” in the fight to be England’s and Team GB’s No 1.
But there is a “big difference” between the level of development of the young players now and where Telford was at the same age. “The style of play that football has now, not just in the women’s game but in the men’s game, you have to have the ability to play with two feet to be able to be a footballer and not just the goalkeeper.
“Also the investment that the FA have now drip-fed into clubs has made goalkeeper coaches full-time. These girls are getting five or six days a week, half an hour to 40 minutes a day of good valuable coaching. Now we’re assessed away from our games as well as in game. The progress is huge.
“If I could have had it, I would have loved it. It keeps you enthused when you get to work with a very good coach one-on-one every single day to make you a better person, a better player.”
Telford had training on Tuesday and Thursday nights and would maybe have someone, possibly even the head coach, “just kicking, volleying a couple of balls at me” for 20 minutes and “then I was just chucked into a session”.
Telford knows staying at the top will be tough and the pandemic has made her switch to short-term targets at international level.
“My goal was to go to the Olympics, which was meant to happen this year, do the home Euros, and then I was probably going to retire,” she says. “Things have obviously changed because of Covid-19. I want to go to the Olympics still, I still want to go to the Euros, but I do realise that things may change. I don’t know what my club situation will be either. So for now it’s the short-sighted game going to the Olympics and then we’ll see what the future holds.”