Izzy Christiansen column: Why England call-up was unexpected

Lyon's Izzy Christiansen

Everton midfielder Izzy Christiansen, 29, played for Birmingham City and Manchester City in the Women’s Super League before joining European champions Lyon, then returned to Merseyside in December. She made her England debut in September 2015.

My call-up to the England training squad this month was pretty unexpected.

I was half asleep on the sofa watching our game against Spurs back. I’ve lost all my phone contacts so England manager Phil Neville was ringing me and I didn’t know it was him!

I was delighted to be asked to come into the camp as a late replacement. There was a massive amount of relief. I had no idea I would be called in so soon because I’m aware of where I am with my fitness – I’m definitely not 100% yet.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. It’s been a long time – 16 months – since I was in the set-up, which is a while in football.

But it was like a breath of fresh air going in. I absolutely loved it. Phil made it really clear it was a clean slate for everybody.

We have three huge years coming up where hopefully we can bring three trophies home – the Olympics, Euros and World Cup. That is the aim and I really want to be a part of that. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to get there.

Why I enjoyed playing with Jordan Nobbs

Izzy Christiansen playing for England
Izzy Christiansen was last capped for England in March 2019 before the World Cup

I had a conversation with Arsenal midfielder Jordan Nobbs on the first day of camp when we were doing a recovery session in the pool. We both sat there and talked about how we were feeling and what was going on.

Jordan – who suffered a knee injury in November 2019 – told me she didn’t feel as confident at the moment and I said she should do, because she is a great player. Things take time and this whole situation with coronavirus has been a dent in our careers in so many different ways.

It has disrupted momentum and form, but we have to forget about the past and focus on the future.

It was a really nice conversation between the two of us because we have been through a lot in our careers and have been in the England youth teams together since we were 15.

There is nothing but respect between us and I think that showed on camp as we actually played alongside each other in midfield for both the training games. I really enjoyed playing alongside Jordan.

‘I don’t fear the younger players’

Izzy Christiansen celebrates scoring against Tottenham
Izzy Christiansen’s header saw Everton maintain their winning start to the Women’s Super League season with victory over Tottenham

I’m loving every minute with Everton and anything internationally will come off the back of good form.

Everton manager Willie Kirk and I haven’t spoken too much about England because I’m a very self-aware person. But I did speak to him when the original squad came out for the camp because I hadn’t been selected.

I was disappointed but I wasn’t going to let it tarnish what my project was. He listened and understood my feelings. He assured me that we would keep working – and that’s all you can do. It felt very calm and composed.

I went and scored the winner against Spurs off the back of that, then a day later I was called into the England squad. It goes to show the effect that not just Willie – but also his staff – have had on me. Everton is a very special club. I am lucky to be here.

The culture is hugely important in order to win trophies in football. You need to get your team-mates through tough times. I’ve been a part of strong cultures. I’ve been in teams who have won lots of major trophies, so I feel I can bring a lot to the England squad on and off the field.

On camp it showed that there are some superb characters among the young girls but, as a more experienced player, I don’t fear the younger players. I love the fact they are coming through because it means they are going to be the best for England.

That’s what I want to be a part of – a winning England team that goes to major tournaments and lifts trophies.

Izzy Christiansen was speaking to BBC Sport’s Emma Sanders.

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