Four years ago Casey Stoney's UEFA Women's EURO opener lasted less than half an hour, but this time it will be one of the defender's greatest moments.
Having captained Hope Powell's Great Britain team in the Olympic tournament last year, Stoney will wear the armband for England against Spain in Linkoping on Friday, having become skipper upon Faye White's retirement. The Lincoln LFC centre-back recovered from an early red card in England's first outing at Finland 2009 against Italy to help England to the final, and she cannot wait to lead her team-mates onto the pitch.
"It is a massive honour to be able to captain your country at such a major tournament," Stoney said. "A massive honour and I'm full of pride as the one to walk the team out."
Not that there is no apprehension. "For me, nerves are a good thing, I've always used nerves for energy," said Stoney, one of four England squad members with more than 100 caps. "Some girls don't suffer with nerves at all, some girls have them in a positive way. I'll be a little bit nervous but at the same time raring to go and I always use those nerves to make sure I am ready."
Thinking back to her abortive start four years ago, the 31-year-old said: "Obviously it wasn't ideal, to get sent off after half an hour is no player's opening-game dream. But that was four years ago; this is a new tournament. I like to think I've come a long way since then and hopefully I'll stay on the pitch for longer this time!"
As for Spain, a team England met in UEFA Women's EURO 2009 and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying – both times winning 1-0 at home and drawing 2-2 away – Stoney said: "We know it is going to be a difficult task, playing them quite a lot recently. We've struggled to beat them at times, so we know it is going to be difficult.
"We've done all the research we need to do – management do not leave any stone unturned where that's [concerned]. We're excited; we've been waiting a long time for this so we are going to give it our best shot."
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