If you're going to reach a milestone then you may as well do it in style. And Rachel Yankey did just that as she marked her arrival in England's 100 club by leading her side to her 3-0 FIFA Women's World Cup™ qualifier win over Turkey last week, scoring and claiming the Player of the Match award in the process.
She becomes only the second England women's player to reach a century of caps, with Gillian Coulthard currently leading the way on 119 appearances, and with a seemingly insatiable thirst to keep on playing, one wouldn't bet against Yankey one day claiming that record tally for herself.
"It is not something that I ever set out to do when I first started playing," she told FIFA.com. "I just wanted to play and play as many games as I can, and I still want to just keep on playing. To reach 100 feels a bit weird. I suppose I only really just started to think about when I got to about 90 and people started to talk about it, saying: 'You're ten away from 100'. Then it became a little more real.
"Doing a little bit of research on it, I knew that Gill Coulthard was the only female player – but I didn't realise that there probably only five other male players that have reached 100, so I was a bit surprised - it sounds even more impressive then," she said, referring to Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Billy Wright, who are the only men to have achieved the same feat so far. "So I'm quite humbled to have played so many games and to have done that well. I think when I finish playing then it will mean a lot more to me. At the moment I just want to play."
I think when I finish playing then it will mean a lot more to me. At the moment I just want to play.
It is that refreshing attitude that is probably in no small part the reason why the winger has achieved so much in the game. Thirteen years on from making her international debut as a forward against Scotland - "I scored on my debut – and then got cramp!" - the 30-year-old is as influential as she has ever been, prompting England manager Hope Powell to declare recently that she believes there is still more to come from one of her star players.
"I always want to learn and improve - I've always been like that since I was a kid, even when people have said 'that was a fantastic game' I always think I can do better," revealed Yankey, who was awarded an MBE in 2006. "Hope saying that is good, it makes me feel that she believes in me, so I 'm happy with that, and hopefully I'll keep improving and doing better."
Employed out on the wing these days rather than in a more forward role, Yankey has not had it all her own way en route to her 100th cap. Indeed, that figure could have been achieved earlier had she not been surprisingly left out of the squad for UEFA Women's EURO 2009.
"I was genuinely shocked at not being picked," she revealed. "I know how hard I trained and I felt a bit gutted for the guys who trained me because we put so much hard work in. Obviously, at that time, Hope didn't feel that I was a player that was good enough to be in the squad for the EUROs. She has to make those decisions as manager and that's fair enough. I knew that I just wanted to keep playing and I just kept going, whether I was to be picked or not. My theory is that if you are the best and you are playing well then you will get picked, so that's why I have been brought back in."
With the opportunity to play in a second FIFA Women's World Cup should England be successful in their forthcoming play-offs in Austria, Yankey is looking well placed to add to that tally, and believes that she will be joined by more of her team-mates in the exclusive club in the near distant future.
"I'm not the first and I definitely won't be the last of this batch of players," she said proudly, citing fellow England internationals Kelly Smith (94), Sue Smith (87) and Fara Williams (84) as all having the prized landmark in their sights.
With caps has come maturity and a realisation on Yankey's part that it is how you deal with the peaks and troughs of your career, coupled with a willingness to learn, that stands as the secret to success. "A lot of things have changed in the England set-up and women's football in general," she said. "So as a player I have gone through a lot and learnt from different experiences. If you don't learn from those experiences you just keep plodding along, and I wouldn't have got to 100."