One of two uncapped players in the England squad for UEFA Women's EURO 2013, Gemma Bonner is hoping her selection will be "just the beginning of things to come" as she looks forward to perhaps the biggest summer of her life.
Having last month completed a degree in sports performance at Leeds Metropolitan University, the versatile Liverpool LFC defender and captain will now turn her attention to swotting up on the challenges that await at next month's tournament in Sweden, where Spain, Russia and France provide the opposition in Group C.
Bonner's graduation to the senior setup has been on the cards for a while – she has represented her country at all youth levels – and in March 2012 the Leeds-born centre-back was included in the full squad for the first time for the EURO qualifier away to Croatia.
Sporting a wide smile as she spoke to UEFA.com at the British Museum in central London, where England's 23-strong party was announced, Bonner said: "It's a massive achievement – I'm really proud. It's something I've been working towards, so I'm glad the hard work has paid off, and hopefully it's just the beginning of things to come.
"I was at home on Friday morning and quite nervous waiting for the call, but when Hope rang and said 'congratulations', I was massively proud and hopefully I can push on from here.
"I've been in and around the squad for a while and obviously I play against the others week in, week out, so hopefully that'll stand me in good stead. I've got to go out there and make the most of the occasion and the opportunity I've been given."
Bonner, who turns 22 the day after England's tournament opener on 12 July, has previous when it comes to winning a continental title. The former Leeds United LFC and Chelsea LFC stopper and club-mate Lucy Bronze – the other uncapped player – were members of Mo Marley's ensemble that claimed the 2009 UEFA European Under-19 Championship crown in Belarus and then lost to France in the final 12 months later.
"By playing in the youth teams and going through the setup I've had experience of winning something, and also being a runner-up the following year," said Bonner. "Hopefully I can use those experiences and bring something to the team at senior level. Ultimately it's where you want to be, at the top level."
Before the 12-team competition commences, Bonner could make her debut in one of two warm-up matches pencilled in for the 2009 runners-up. On Wednesday, England face world champions Japan at home and the following week encounter the side the Japanese defeated in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finals, Sweden, in Ljungskile.
"The higher [calibre of] opposition you can play, the better – it tests you as a team," said Bonner, relishing the possibility of earning her first caps against two of the best teams on the planet. "It's good preparation for us going into the tournament and we're all looking forward to it."
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