Lucy Staniforth says her recall to the England squad after being a standby player ahead of the World Cup is something she feels she earned.
The 30-year-old, who had been set to go on holiday with her mother to Ibiza, changed that plan when she was called up by Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman in late June to replace Jess Park on a standby list also featuring Maya Le Tissier.
Staniforth was subsequently involved in preparations at home and then in Australia before parting ways with the squad as the tournament – in which Wiegman’s European champions went on to finish runners-up – got under way.
The Aston Villa midfielder, capped 17 times, most recently in October 2021, is back in the fold at the first opportunity since the World Cup, for the upcoming Nations League matches against Scotland and Netherlands.
She said: “I think from January, moving to Villa (after leaving Manchester United), it sort of put me back in the frame of England.
“It was always on my radar, something I wanted to get back into, and it felt like there was sort of unfinished business with the team.
“I really want to contribute and not just be here for the ride. So it was really pleasing to hear from Sarina and know I was called up to this camp.
“I felt like I’d earned it, and it’s a really satisfying feeling to know you’ve put in that hard work and obviously made an impact in the pre camps before the World Cup. And it just feels like I’m in the right place, this is where I should be.”
Staniforth says the standby stint left her with “fire in my belly”.
“I wouldn’t call it bittersweet,” she said. “It was such a wonderful camp. It was a real privilege to be part of that whole experience. I think me and Maya certainly enjoyed ourselves and we brought lots of good stuff to the camp too.
“But when we had to say goodbye, it was a bit like ‘the dream’s over now’. You always kind of had in the back of your head ‘maybe, maybe there’s a chance’.
“It’s probably my favourite camp I’ve ever been on, strange as that is because obviously it was stopped shorter than I would have liked.
“I came away and had such good feelings and no regrets. It left me in a really good mental place to go ‘OK, there’s still so much I want to achieve, there’s so much I want to do with England, and with Aston Villa.’ I just had so much hunger and fire in my belly.”
Asked if the experience had given her an extra push in pre-season, Staniforth said: “Oh yeah – I’ve been trying so hard!
“I have felt every rep, every run we’ve done. It’s been a really hard pre-season, probably the hardest I’ve done. I’ve really enjoyed the pain and the struggle!
“I kind of just had a little word with myself in the gym and was like ‘right – you’ve got time now, let’s go for it, let’s really push.’
“I just thought to myself ‘come on, let’s get down and work really hard’, and I’m really glad I’ve done that because now I’m here, I feel really good, really fit and I’m really looking forward to the England games.”
England face Scotland at the Stadium of Light on Friday, and ex-Sunderland player Staniforth feels it would be “pretty cool” to be involved again at a ground where she played in an FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea in 2009.
She added: “I have really fond memories of living and playing in the north east. I’m so excited to get back up there and whatever happens on Friday is just a bonus.”
Staniforth was “really proud” of her team-mates for their efforts at the World Cup – and regarding her mother, she said: “She went on holiday on her own and had an amazing time, so I was really happy for her. It’s the first holiday, first flight, everything, that she’d done on her own, so I was like ‘well done Mum!'”