England’s women have finally won a major international trophy after beating Germany in the final of Euro 2022.
In the closing minutes of the final, with England leading 2-1, commentator Robyn Cowen said: “This England team will be the ones whose names are remembered, but it’s imperative to remember the ones who came before,” she said. “The ones who struggled, the ones who had to pay to play, who sacrificed their time, their money and at times their dignity all because they wanted to play football.”
Cowen recalled the words of an England midfielder: “As Jill Scott put it, ‘this is for them’ – If they get their hands on that trophy, it’s their hands on it as well.”
Co-commentator Rachel Brown-Finnis, herself a former England international, added some specificity: “For Carole Thomas – the first-ever captain in 1984, Jill Coulthard – my first ever captain that I played under; and for so many Lionesses whose names won’t be sung around Wembley but are never ever forgotten as to why they are here today.
“The likes of Kelly Simmons and Rach Pavlou – never stopped fighting the fight. Hope Powell – first ever full-time England manager, who put so much of the infrastructure into place.”
So, in honour of that sentiment, we’ve looked back at the last Lionesses to make a final. The side that made it to the Helsinki showpiece of Euro 2009, where they faced Germany and lost 6-2.
That was a humbling defeat, in part because it was an England side absolutely loaded with talent, many of whom have now gone on to become familiar names in punditry and presenting.
Making a final would be an incredible achievement worthy of praise and coverage, but as Faye White – England’s captain in 2009 – explained: “We were told that there would be [some media coverage] and we’ve kinda come back to the airport and there wasn’t. It was very much ‘go back to your day job’ and you would have never thought the team had just come back from getting to a final.”
So who were those Lionesses that no one deemed worthy of coverage?
England caps: 82
Rachel Brown-Finnis was a legendary goalkeeper and often an outspoken figure. She played in two FA Cup finals, one for Liverpool and another for Everton (winning the latter) and is currently working as a broadcaster. She was on co-comms for the 2022 final.
Contemporary: Mary Earps
Even at the age of 29, Earps has already played for more clubs than Brown-Finnis did in her whole career. She’s currently goalkeeper for Manchester United, although she won the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal with former club Wolfsburg.
England caps: 140
The iconic Alex Scott has become a true powerhouse of broadcasting in recent years, to the extent that many won’t know she was actually a world-class Quadruple-winning right-back. Scott was Arsenal’s No. 2 as they swept all before them in 2006/07, winning all four competitions available to them; most impressively the Champions League – where Scott scored the only goal of the two-legged final.
Contemporary: Lucy Bronze
Scott’s impossible charm gives her a unique rapport with just about everyone but she seems to hold a special affection for her successor at right-back, Lucy Bronze, shouting her out post-match. Bronze has had a masterful career, winning everything you could imagine (bar the World Cup) and she’s just signed for the all-conquering Barcelona so don’t expect that success to stop any time soon.
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) July 31, 2022
England caps: 90
Faye White was a powerful presence at the back and played over 300 games for Arsenal in a career that nearly spanned two decades. She won four domestic doubles, two domestic trebles and was skipper during the aforementioned Quadruple.
It is truly wild to think that, despite all the success White and Arsenal had, women’s football still struggled to draw an audience – probably because broadcasters didn’t even show the tournament live on television.
🗣 "We were always told if we got out of the group, they would show the games on TV."
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) July 4, 2022
Contemporary: Leah Williamson
Like White, England’s captain Williamson is also an Arsenal player. And like White, Williamson has only ever been an Arsenal player. An elegant ball-playing centre-back, Williamson isn’t a stylistic match but she does hold a candle to her predecessor from a mentality perspective. A true leader.
England caps: 71
Another veteran of that Arsenal Quadruple side, Asante was only 24 in the 2009 final and only just retired this year after a short spell with Aston Villa – the ninth club of her professional career.
Contemporary: Millie Bright
Asante is more of a stylistic match with Leah Williamson, in that she was also a ball-player who was comfortable bringing the ball out from the back, rather than the relentlessly rugged Millie Bright.
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England caps: 130
Casey Stoney is now better known as the sartorially exceptional coach who was let down by Manchester United as she attempted to make their woman’s side relevant, but she was once a great left-back. She also emerged from the Arsenal academy but went on to make her name with Charlton and Chelsea instead.
Contemporary: Rachel Daly
Rachel Daly has been playing in the USA since 2016 when she joined Houston Dash and had the misfortune of being one of the few England players to struggle in the final, though when facing the competition’s most succesful side ever, you’d probably expect a tough game.
England caps: 102
Eni Aluko is an iconic figure in the women’s game who at the time of the 2009 final was playing for Chelsea. She soon made a name for herself in the USA as well and played on until 2020 when she retired. Late in her career she won titles for both Chelsea and Juventus and more impressively stood tall against racism and prejudice from head coach Mark Sampson and within the FA itself.
Contemporary: Beth Mead
Beth Mead has been England’s superstar at Euro 2022, ending the tournament as top scorer with six goals. Mead repeatedly showed up, especially in the group stages, to get the goals the Lionesses needed.
England caps: 172
The immortal Fara Williams remains the most-capped English player of all-time (any gender). An achievement made even more remarkable by the fact that for the early part of her football career she was homeless. Williams is currently working as a pundit where she combines sharp tactical insight with a relatable tone and demeanour.
Contemporary: Keira Walsh
The midfield metronome of the England midfield, Walsh’s ability to set the tempo for her team-mates has been crucial to England’s success. It was her long-range pass that set-up the Lionesses opening goal in the 2022 final.
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England caps: 94
Another one of those Arsenal Quadruple winners, Chapman’s presence in the 2009 side was made even more impressive by the fact that the tournament came just one year after she had given birth to her second child.
Contemporary: Georgia Stanway
Stanway has been, along with Walsh, the hub of the English midfield at Euro 2022. Her quality is such that she has recently signed for Bayern Munich, and will be the latest young Lioness to take her talents to other countries.
England are the fourth different country to win the European Championships as the host nation:
◎ Norway (1987)
◎ Germany (1989 & 2001)
◎ Netherlands (2017)
◉ England (2022)
— Squawka (@Squawka) July 31, 2022
England caps: 144
Carney was just 20 years old back in 2009 but was already established as an electric talent and, yes, a Quadruple winner with Arsenal. She scored England’s first goal in the 2009 final, finishing from close range.
Contemporary: Lauren Hemp
Hemp, like Carney, is the youngster in the England side. A relentless runner and creative dribbler she excels in wide areas and has caused problems for every English opponent besides Spain. It was Hemp’s corner that led to England’s winner.
Forward: Jill Scott
England caps: 161
Jill Scott is an absolute icon of the English game. She was one of the first 17 women to be handed central contracts as the English FA started moving towards professionalisation back in May 2009.
Incredibly, she is currently without a club having left Manchester City shortly before the Euros began. Her calming presence off the bench in every game, or her energising presence as it was in the final, will surely see her find new employment soon enough.
Contemporary: Jill Scott (or Fran Kirby)
Jill Scott’s contemporary is herself, as the 35 year-old is still playing! Of course she’s now a super-sub, where she was a starter in 2009. Her starting spot has gone to the incomparable Fran Kirby, who fought through health issues to be ready for Euro 2022 and got better with every game, culminating in a classy semi-final display against Sweden.
Forward: Kelly Smith
England caps: 117
In 1990’s England, the men had Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham. The women had Kelly Smith, who was basically a combination of both men. A phenomenal dribbler and goalscorer, Smith set-up England’s first goal in the 2009 final and scored the second quite sensationally.
Smith played plenty of matches in the USA, given the better financial situation out there. But she is also an Arsenal legend which means, yup, she was a key part of the Quadruple, albeit she didn’t play in the Champions League final.
Contemporary: Ellen White
Kelly Smith scored 46 goals for England, meaning she was England’s third-highest goalscorer at her retirement (behind only Gary Lineker and Sir Bobby Charlton). She has since been surpassed by Harry Kane (50 goals), Wayne Rooney (53 goals) and Ellen White (52).
White has been playing for England for over a decade and needs to score two goals to become England’s greatest ever goalscorer (and if she does it within seven games she’ll have a better goals-to-game ratio than Rooney, too).
While White’s influence has declined and she spent much of the Euros acting as a battering ram, tiring out defenders only to be replaced by Alessia Russo, who came on and did the damage of scoring goals, White still has that killer instinct and you’d back her to break those records
Manager: Hope Powell
No discussion of England’s past can be had without mentioning Hope Powell. The former coach was a huge figure in the transformation of the women’s game from amateur to professional.
Powell was the first-ever woman to earn the UEFA Pro License, which she did in 2003. She was also behind the push for central contracts, allowing her a more stable selection of players to choose from.
The likes of Kelly Smith, Alex Scott, Eni Aluko, Anita Asante and Karen Carney had already sought better financial terms in the USA, but for those who remained behind in England those central contracts were essential to their dreams of playing the game.
“These contracts will help them to focus on training and playing and, just as importantly, on getting the adequate rest time in between without having the pressures of working a 35-hour week,” said Powell back in 2009.
“We hope this will allow our girls time to concentrate on helping England qualify for major tournaments on a consistent basis and competing at the very top level against the best teams in the world.”