It was a funny feeling after realising just how much we had accomplished at the final whistle of the European Championship final. We had just won a first major trophy for England but I immediately thought: ‘On to the World Cup now.’
We did achieve something incredible after winning six matches in a row, conceding just two goals in the process, and becoming champions of Europe.
For me that has always been the biggest of all. I’ve played in two World Cups and have not been happy with the way we’ve gone out both times.
In 2015, an own goal dumped us out and four years later, in Lyon’s home stadium where I played my club football at the time, we suffered at the hands of VAR against the USA and then missed a penalty in another semi-final defeat.
I have so many things attached to the World Cup. I also saw what winning it did for the USA while I was over there playing.
I would have taken absolutely anything to have a trophy with England, though. So going to Australia and New Zealand as European champions next year will be special.
I thought I would feel fulfilled after the achievement of this summer but it never stops. I felt the same way about my Fifa Best player in the world award in 2020 – the sense was one of ‘what’s next?’. There is always something else you can achieve and you don’t want to rest on any laurels.
We have to keep doing more and that is what will sustain me in the 11 months leading up to the World Cup.
There are so many in the England team for whom this was their first major tournament. It was the first one our captain Leah Williamson had gone into as a starter. Some of the younger players will think this is the norm!
For the likes of me, Jill Scott and Ellen White, especially, this has been a long time coming. A lot of work has gone in to get us here. Jill has had more disappointments than anyone.
When she came on as a substitute in the final with Germany, she got a bigger cheer than anyone so we call her ‘National Treasure’ now.
We have talked for years in this country about wining something and, after a series of semi-final losses, we have finally done that. We have shown we can do it and that we know what it takes to win.
I’ve spoken to some of the girls and, nine days on, we’re just so tired. We have all had so much to do since the final – I’ve been up and down the country and that’s after six matches, two of which went to extra-time.
But physically this is the best I’ve felt after a tournament. At the last Euros, we wanted to be the fittest team out there and that took its toll afterwards but this time it will be more of a challenge for us all mentally.
We went three to four weeks in our bubble, not seeing friends or family because of the threat of Covid and that was particularly hard on someone like Demi Stokes, who has a newborn baby.
But we ended up with the same starting XI in each of our six games – something we did not know would happen before the finals – and our processes stayed the same before every single match. That kept things a bit more settled – it’s what coach Sarina Wiegman does.
She knows how to manage these situations. One thing we do know is our success has to have an impact and that was why we wrote a letter as a team to the Conservative Party leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss calling for every girl to be able to play football at school.
We want to make a change in society and we all feel strongly about that. So many things are still lacking in the women’s game in this country too, there is plenty to work on.
If we can keep improving the national team and encouraging girls to participate in football – in the playground, schools and clubs – we can be proud of our work this summer.
SO, yes, I did lead the conga into the manager’s post-match press conference after the final, singing Football’s Coming Home, but I was put up to it by someone in the team whispering in my ear: ‘The manager’s doing a press conference.’ I think they knew I would be the one to say yes to leading it. I wasn’t shy about it and we danced and sang in front of the gathered press and were high on adrenaline by that stage!
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