24 April 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Rachel Yankey ‘I know how much better England could be’

June 26, 2013
Rachel-Yankey-Vauxhall-2

Today, Rachel Yankey will become England’s most capped football player if she plays against Japan to gain her 126th cap. In doing so Rachel will surpass Peter Shilton’s old record of 125 caps and make history.Rachel-Yankey-Vauxhall-2

At only 33 Rachel Yankey has crammed an awful lot into her career and she has seen the women’s game change beyond all recognition. But her career has humble beginnings since it began when she was a schoolgirl playing as the only girl in a boys team,

“I really enjoyed playing with the boys and I wouldn’t change that time even if I could have it again. For me it was all about being treated as a footballer and being judged on my skill.

Most of the time people just thought I was a boy, I pulled the wool over so many peoples eyes and I was happy with that. I learnt so much during that time and as I look back on it now, I can honestly say it was great.”

Being the highest capped England player is not the only accolade Yankey has achieved, she is also registered as being the first professional female footballer in England, for Fulham back in 2000-2004. This gave her an insight into just what a difference being a full-time athlete makes,

“I know how much better England could be if we had the chance to be fully professional. I played professionally for three years at Fulham, it was a massively ground-breaking time and I loved it.

“All 16 of us were full time professionals and we played and trained as a team the whole time. We even had the time to rest properly which is so overlooked and not always possible when you are juggling work and playing football. It was how it should be and how it is for the men, and I really believe that it has to become like that for the women too.”

As it stands, most of the England women’s team are juggling part-time careers or college, Yankey compares it to the men’s game when a giant premiership side meets a small semi-professional club in the FA cup and everyone thinks its amazing that the little club has such fighting spirit,

“Most people don’t realise that that’s what it is like for us all the time – that is the England Women’s team. People need to understand that.”

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Despite the inequalities, Rachel is full of admiration for the men’s game and the standard of play,

“If someone says something like ‘wow that was as good as men’s football’, I don’t take offense at all, the men are fully professional and play amazingly well – so to me it’s a compliment.”

Rachel has also experienced playing abroad a couple of times, once as a youngster when she went to Canada to play for Laval Dynamites, and again to play for a short time in the USA for the New Jersey Wildcats.

“It was pretty intense going abroad at a young age, it was quite character building and I had to grow up fast, but it was amazing and I loved both Canada and The USA. They play quite a different game too so that had it’s own challenges. One really positive thing we have learnt from those countries is the benefit of really good basic fitness, that’s something we have really started looking at over the past few years.”

So as England prepare to meet Olympic silver medalists, and current World Champions Japan, as part of their build-up to the European Cup in Sweden this summer, what are Rachel Yankees career highlights?

“Winning the quadruple for Arsenal was a major highlight, no other English team has been able to do that and we managed it against all odds – we really had to fight for it.

The other major moment was winning my 100th cap for England. It was a dream scenario; I was captain, I scored and we won. What more could you ask for?”

Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Rachel Yankey was speaking on behalf of Vauxhall the England team sponsor.

Follow all the action from the Women’s European Championships at www.vauxhallfootball.co.uk and via @VauxhallEngland on twitter

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