- Lucy Staniforth talks about England's family-like atmosphere
- Midfielder overcame double anterior cruciate ligament break
- 26-year-old says team-mate Lucy Bronze is "like a big sister"
By Laure James with England
England have cultivated a family-like atmosphere within the squad, yet for the more experienced players who have grown up with one another by their side, the friendships go back generations. Lucy Staniforth’s early career in the north of England helped childhood friendships blossom with some of the Lionesses’ big names.
“It was quite a unique situation because I bumped into Lucy Bronze at the age of 12, and our friendship and love of football grew from there, as well as our desire to develop,” Staniforth, 26, told FIFA. “We moved to Sunderland about a year later, where we met Jordan Nobbs, Demi Stokes, Toni Duggan and Jade Moore later. It wasn’t a bad little team! And from there on we got picked for England. Obviously now those people are my closest friends, so to have shared those experiences with them is pretty amazing.”
Staniforth’s own progress was curtailed through injury, as she suffered a double anterior cruciate ligament break, yet she always championed the success of her peers.
“I always remember when Lucy was first picked for England, she was in the year ahead of me and she was a year older so I thought everything which happened to her would happen to me the year after,” the attacking midfielder said. “We were competitive, we wanted to win and Lucy and I especially always set ourselves challenges away from football which was quite funny.
“But in all honesty I think we just wanted the best for one another, to be totally supportive because we knew that along the way we would get the opportunities ourselves. We trusted the process.”
Staniforth comes from a footballing family; her father Gordon played for York City and Hull City, while her brother Tom played for Sheffield Wednesday, yet tragically died aged 20. His sister wears number 37, Tom’s jersey number at the Owls, in his honour.
"We all have completely different stories personally, so to sort of overcome whatever those obstacles were within our own space, is quite special,” she said. “We were just so lucky to have one another, at different times during our careers we’ve all had to lean on each other for support and strength. Lucy [Bronze] looked after me a lot and I remember the second time I did my ACL, she was there with me, she came to hospital with me and she's like a big sister.”
Having scored on her full debut in qualifying against Kazakhstan, overcoming injury to finally kickstart her England career, Staniforth is now relishing every moment in France.
“If you'd asked me a year ago, I would have said that is the dream, that is what I want, but knowing whether it was realistic or not was a different question,” she said. “Having played at Sunderland and had a difficult season with them, I felt proud when I got an England call-up but to be sitting here now in France I almost need to pinch myself at times considering the opportunities I have now, and the faith Phil [Neville] has shown in me.”