When Hope Powell picked her England squad for UEFA Women's EURO 2009, it included a United States-based goalkeeper who had not been part of the set-up, save for a brief spell at the Algarve Cup four years earlier.
Since then Karen Bardsley has emerged as Powell's No1 choice in goal, a position she will hold at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 where England face Spain, Russia and France in the city where the California-born 28-year-old spent two seasons with Linköpings FC. Having made a winter move to English side Lincoln City LFC, Bardsley spoke to UEFA.com about the coming tournament and looks back on her time since rejoining the squad.
UEFA.com: How far can England go?
Karen Bardsley: I think we can go all the way. I mean, there's no point being there if you don't think that. So I think we can get quite far, I think we can get to the final and win it.
UEFA.com: Since you started playing for England, the defence has changed with Faye White retiring and Sophie Bradley and Stephanie Houghton coming in. Do you still feel continuity?
Bardsley: Oh yes, we have been together for quite some time, so there's no real big difference in personnel. Lots of people can fill lots of different gaps, and everyone is quite accomplished at this level so everyone just seamlessly fits in.
UEFA.com: In your group in Linkoping you've got Spain, Russia and France; what do you think about those three opponents?
Bardsley: Obviously really strong, a strong group. We've met France before quite a few times, and unfortunately they've got the better of us the last few times. It's been a while since we played Russia, it's been a while since we played Spain, and we all know that everyone in Europe is making big strides. So it's going to be quite a task ahead of us.
UEFA.com: When you first came in, before UEFA Women's EURO 2009, you were second choice; what does it mean to you now to be the starter?
Bardsley: It's massive. Coming into the squad, I felt I hadn't met my potential, and as the years have gone by I like to think I'm doing an alright job. I just do what I can and challenge myself at training every day. We've got a good group of keepers, so we challenge each other as well. I make sure I'm not comfortable, I'm always working to keep my No1 shirt.
UEFA.com: Also back in 2009, you hadn't been involved in the England set-up for a while; was it very unfamiliar for you?
Bardsley: It wasn't unfamiliar at all. I'd been in and out of the squad for years when I was a kid, and through injury I was out for about four years. Coming back I knew quite a lot of faces and a lot of people, so it was quite easy to come back. Coming in a bit older I had more experience as well, so I felt I could just be myself. And through that I think I played quite well.
UEFA.com: How closely had you been able to follow England and follow what they were doing? Because obviously you weren't in England at the time ...
Bardsley: Yes, quite closely. Obviously with the friends and the team-mates in the squad, I never lost contact with anyone while I was out. But there were some moments when I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to come back or not. But then I went and made the right decision – I knew that I definitely wanted to be here.
UEFA.com: Did it help at that time that quite a few players had just actually moved to America to play in the league there?
Bardsley: Oh, I think it definitely did, yes. I carried on playing, then Anita Asante came to New Jersey [Sky Blue FC], and I had been drafted by New Jersey as well, so we kind of met up, playing together. I think Hope Powell caught wind of that, that I was still playing, so she gave me a chance and I took it!
UEFA.com: Was it a surprise when you got the call?
Bardsley: It was always in the back of my mind, that I thought "maybe she will call me back". But I was a bit surprised, yes, when my [club] coach, my manager gave me the call; I thought it was a bit mean, I thought they were playing a prank on me!
UEFA.com: Were you pleased when England were drawn to play in Linkoping, where you played club football last year?
Bardsley: Yes, I thought it was quite funny. I was thinking to myself: "I don't know if I'll ever be going back there." While I was there the stadium was being built, and the day the draw was made I was [thinking,] "Oh, how about that?" So it's going to be quite nice for me.
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