We're in the midst of some top football action at the moment, but there's even more to come - England Women's football team are also in action this weekend with a vital qualification match against Holland tomorrow. Ahead of the game, which takes place at the brand new Salford City Stadium and is also being shown live on BBC2, we chatted to England's record appearance holder Rachel Yankey. Here's what she had to say about tomorrow's massive game, playing on a rugby pitch, and the inspiration of the men's football team....
How important is Sunday's game?
Holland is going to be a really tough game, they’re top of the group so it’s definitely the toughest game of the campaign so far. With it being a home game as well, not only do we need to get the result but we need to put on a bit of a performance as well.
Do you look forward to games against the top opposition?
Yeah, definitely, you want to be challenged and to push yourself. You can play games where you win 10-0 and never really get out of first gear, but it doesn’t help you as a player. As a professional player, you want to test yourself against the best teams in the world, and to see what you can do.
Are you looking forward to playing at a new stadium?
We always enjoy playing up north, the fans are always really positive and get behind the team, and it sounds like there’ll be quite a few people coming down on Sunday to cheer us on. It doesn’t bother us that it’s a rugby ground, apart from a few extra lines on the pitch it’s exactly the same. There’s been no temptation for any rugby-style challenges so far – I don’t think I could do a rugby tackle if I tried! I suppose there’s wingers in rugby as well though, all we do is run up and down, so I could do that.
How important is qualification to next summer's European Championships?
It’s massive. If we want the sport to grow then England have to be playing in these major championships. If we didn’t qualify then it’d be a big upset for the women’s game. We’ve come such a long way over the last couple of years, and we need to keep qualifying to continue that. Everyone knows that and it does put a bit of pressure on us, but it’s the type of pressure that you want as a player. England should be at the European Championships next year, so we’re happy to have that pressure put on ourselves. We’re confident that we’re good enough to qualify.
Do you think the men's tournament that's on at the moment will inspire the team?
Hopefully, yeah, the Euros so far have been really good to watch, some great football being played, so hopefully everyone’s got a bit of a football fever. We’ve been watching all the games in the camp, and cheering on the men’s team in their games, after their win last night hopefully we can do the same tomorrow for England.
Our game is on TV tomorrow as well, ahead of the games in the Euros, so hopefully a few people will sit down to watch both, watch our game to prepare themselves for the games afterwards! It’s Father’s Day as well, so dads are allowed to take charge of the remote and make it a complete football day. Or it’s a great present for Father’s Day, to bring your dad along and watch a top game of football!
What’s next for the squad?
The next game is actually next Thursday against Slovenia, so it’s going to be quite tough to be playing one game and going straight into the preparations for the next one. It’s quite an intense two weeks, with the training camp and the two games, but it’s so enjoyable as well. The crowd will be so important tomorrow, to cheer us on in that game and to give us a good send off for the second one later in the week.
Thanks to Rachel for taking the time to speak to us, and best of luck for the game tomorrow. If you fancy going along to watch the game, tickets are still available - it's just £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. Kick off is at 5.15pm, but there's also games and other family friendly activities at the ground from 3pm. Head to www.thefa.com for more information.