Creative Soccer Culture

Georgia Stanway For SoccerBible Volumes: 'All Power'

Just ahead of England’s Euro 2022 opener, jump into our in depth conversation with Georgia Stanway from our Summer 2022 publication, SoccerBible Volumes: ‘All Power’.

Dreams are what drive us in life, often giving us purpose and direction, and that’s no different at the elite level in sport. In fact, it’s arguably the pursuit of ones dreams and how grand they are that separates the best from the rest. For Georgia Stanway, those dreams have to constantly evolve each time they become a reality – this is an individual who made her Manchester City debut at 16, winning the WSL title and League Cup double, then backing that up with a further two League Cup wins and Three FA Cup wins in the following six years. Add to that becoming a fully-fledged Lioness and a victory at the SheBelieves Cup in 2019 and you start to see how her dreams simply have to shift.

On the dawn of England's Euro 2022 campaign, Stanway, now at the lofty old age of 23, has her sights fixed on success on the international stage – a shared goal that the whole squad is focused on. It’s that unity that puts England in a strong position ahead of the tournament, a proud pride that will all be pulling for the same purpose with a home crowd roaring them on. For Stanway, who puts great value on her relationships with family and friends, it’s the ultimate dream – to find success in the England shirt with those closest to her watching on from the stands. Dreams don’t get much bigger, but who’d bet against the drive and determination of this exciting and talented player making it a reality?

So it feels like every season is awards season for you. How does it feel to have achieved so much at such a young age? Does it feel like your goals are constantly changing?

I think it’s difficult because sometimes you can’t even set yourself targets. One, you don’t think it’s even possible or two, you don’t even realise it’s there. I think I’ve been quite fortunate in that I’ve come though at a time where I’ve been able to be a full time professional – I’ve not experienced the hard graft that some of the older girls have. But yeah, I’m just fortunate to be in the position that I am and I’ll constantly keep pushing and try to achieve as much as I can.

How close are your trophies and medals, do you keep them nearby?

Yeah, they’re in my house, just under the stairs. I’m not a big fan of having them on display. I’ll do it for the first week, but then it can go away as it doesn’t match my interior!

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Do the physical medals and trophies drive you on to want more?

Definitely. Not necessarily being able to hold something, but just the actual feeling of knowing you’ve achieved something. It obviously drives you on because you want to achieve as much as you can in such a short career. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to achieve quite a lot in such a short space of time. I know that at some point in my career I won’t win anything, so I feel like I’ve got to relish and enjoy the fact that now I ma winning things, whether they’re individual or team things, this doesn’t last forever, so I’ve got to enjoy it while I can.

What was football like for you as a kid and do you feel like you stood out for the right reasons early on?

As a kid I was always very energetic and I grew up with three brothers, so I either played football or I got the ball kicked at me, so it was kind of forced upon me but I fell in love with it straight away. I literally played every single sport, but I knew that football was where my heart was and that was evident from an early age.

When I was 13 I went for a Blackburn Rovers trial, but I’m actually from Barrow in the Lake District, so that was two hours there, two hours back three times a week. That was when I knew I had to take it pretty serious because it wasn’t just me having to experience that, it was my parents having to drive me and the sacrifice for them to take me there.

But when I got to about 15 I thought that it could actually become serious, and that was when I bucked my ideas up and thought what’s the worst that can happen. I was grateful to my parents for giving their time up to take me, and the money and for the car miles, so it was just about time that I gave back to them.

It’s times like being in Wembley that I can look up and see them enjoying that makes it all worth while.

Those car journeys, are they preserved as special moments when you think back?

Definitely. We spent a lot of time in the car, so they were the moments where we created such special relationships and that’s how I got so close with my parents. I feel sorry for my brothers because I had so much time with them! But we got to talk about things that we probably wouldn’t talk about otherwise if we weren’t in that situation. I knew every single time that I got back home or I got to training that a thank you would mean the world to them, so I made sure that every time I got out of the car that that was what I did, so that they knew that I was grateful for that.

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Prior to going to Blackburn then, when you were playing as a kid, do you remember hearing the noise about a potential move, and were you aware of people talking about you in that way?

I grew up playing with the boys until I was about 11 years old – that was the cut off point. I got a lot of stick coming through the age groups in the boys team, things like ‘oh, they’ve got a girl on their team’. But once we kicked off they soon realised that I was basically one of the lads anyway.

When I got to 11, girls and boys couldn’t play together anymore, so I had to make the decision whether I wanted to carry on or stop. But to go to Blackburn at the age of 11 or 12 was too much, so I started playing every other sport. I played county cricket, I played table tennis, I literally did everything that I could, just to substitute the fact that I couldn’t play football at the time. Within that year was when I knew that football was where my heart was.

So at camp if someone asks for a game of table tennis, you’re a secret master?

Do you know what, you lose table tennis skills so quickly. I’d probably be terrible if someone asked me to have a game now. But I was just that type of kid that literally just got involved in anything. Anything with the boys. Rugby, anything.

With all that in mind, when you look back now as a fully fledged international, what’s it like to be in your shoes?

I’m grateful for the journey that I’ve had and the people that have been a part of it. My parents, coaches, friends who’ve been with me every step of the way, whether that’s at games or on the end of the phone literally as soon as a game has finished. I’m grateful for that support.

In terms of football, I’ve got unfinished business. I’ve still got things that I want to achieve, and things that I want to win, whether that be internationally or at club level. I just want to enjoy it all as much as I can. I’m 23 now, so hopefully 10 plus years left.

When you think about the summer you must get excited. What goes through your mind?

I’m just taking each day as it comes. Hopefully I’ll get a little bit of a break after the season and just enjoy myself as much as I can in the two weeks before the preparations for the tournament kick in. Rest, get myself in the best possible condition. Looking at the start of June and hopefully my name will be on the list and just go from there.The Euros is very exciting, and to have it at home is even more exciting.

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What is it like to be a Lioness? Can you describe the feeling of representing England?

It’s probably one of the best feelings in the world. You can’t really describe it and you can’t really put it into words, because it’s something that only a limited number of people get to achieve and I’m fortunate enough to be in that position. It’s just an honour to wear the badge and look up in the stands and see the people that have helped you along the way and made this journey possible.

Scoring a goal is a rush in itself, but to then look up in the stands, it’s like a double take of emotions. What’s that like?

It’s mad. It’s more when you look up and your parents are already on the beer and you’re hoping they can speak by the end of the game! But no, you’re already going mad because you’re proud and you’re happy in that instance, celebrating with your teammates, then you look up and the fans and your parents are still going mad… it’s just being able to relive it twice.

They going to be lobbing pints this summer?

I hope so!

What about getting that call up to the senior squad, does it feel surreal?

It’s still very surreal, because you never know what will happen, what situation you’ll be in. I’m fortunate enough to have attended all the camps that I have, but you never know when you’re time is to miss one out. There’s people in great form in the Lionesses, loads of great footballers, so you literally just never know.

When it comes to tournaments it’s obviously more exciting to get selected because of the occasion, and you never know when the opportunity might come around again. In four years time you might not be in the setup anymore. So we literally just experience it and take every day as it comes.

It feels like there’s a real camaraderie in the England squad. You all seem like such good mates. Is that fair to say?

Definitely. We all just get on really well. No matter when you come into an England squad, club allegiances get put aside and we just focus on playing for the country. There’s some really good girls in there and we all get on really well. We’ve all got the same goal, which is really important – we all want to win.

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Where does that energy within the squad come from, is it from the manager, or elsewhere?

The manager plays a big part in it. I think that she’s come in and it’s been a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to have somebody who’s a little bit different, and who has come from a different culture and who does things just a little bit differently, it keeps you on your toes. But it also comes from us as well. The pride of playing for England automatically creates a buzz. We even look at the men and the buzz that they created at the Euros. We want to mirror that. Whether we’re male or female we all play football and we want to create the same following. Hopefully we can play some football that people will enjoy watching, so there’s no reason not to.

Who would you say are your closest friends in the squad?

I’m quite fortunate to have quite a lot of friends. There’s a lot of people that came up through the ranks at the same time as me, so Toony, Alessia [Russo], Lotte [Wubben-Moy], Neve [Herron], Ellie [Roebuck], it’s a really solid age group. But I really get on well with the older ones, so like Leah, Keira’s one of my best mates, Lucy as well. We’re just like a big group. Zel, Keats, we all just hang around as one big group together, playing cards all the time, just enjoying each other’s company.

It’s a good mixture of characters. Do you feel there’s a lot of different personalities in there?

Yeah, definitely. Everyone’s got the same goal, like I said before, but everyone’s their own person, so you’ve just got to be yourself and hopefully everyone likes you!

The actual experience of playing for England and the adrenaline it must bring… is it hard to sleep after these types of games?

Yeah, sometimes it is. That’s usually when the snacks come out or somebody finds something in their suitcase that we can all enjoy. But we usually just end up chatting and playing cards, sitting in the corridor talking about the game or just talking about life – literally anything. By the time you’ve had a conversation with some of the goals you’re then ready to go to bed.

Although you’re not sleeping, resting’s just as good. We enjoy those moments, because it’s a time when people can be a little more personal and open up a little bit more.

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When you step into the changing room and see an England shirt with your name on the back, it must be an incredible feeling?

It is. It’s still kind of surreal, even now, just the fact that the badge is on the front and my name’s on the back, it’s pretty mad. Still to this day I’ll take a picture of the shirt and send it to my family, send it to my friends. I’ll always just savour that moment. It’s weird, because you walk into a dressing room and it could be the nicest dressing room in the world or it could be the worst, but no matter what, your shirt is still there and you still get the same feeling.

What are your thoughts when you think of a packed-out Wembley or Old Trafford this summer?

For us it would be extra special, with it being a home Euros. It’ll be just so exciting. I think it’d be unbelievable to get as many fans into the stadiums no matter who’s playing. There’s so many games across England and it’d be amazing to see the support in terms of women’s football, and not just us as England. But yeah, it’s what dreams are made of: packed stadium, family in the stands, me walking out.

It has the potential to be a real party vibe this summer with all the games. What would the dream scenario be for you?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win it. But there’s more to that and I’ve got to take it a step at a time. I can’t just turn up and lift that trophy. There’s six games in the way. So take each game as it comes, each training session, and try and get the best out of the girls that are around me, with us all putting ourselves in the best possible position, whether that be through learning tactics, technical ability, physical ability – literally everything is involved. We’ve got to try and use those one percents to get one up on those around us.

Do you feel like your mindset has shifted from where you felt lucky to be involved with England or your club to now believing that it’s where you belong?

I think you already generate that. It’s about looking at every aspect of the game; it’s not just about the ball. It’s about what you do at home, what you eat, your rest and recovery, literally everything. And this mindset puts you in the best possible position.

You don’t want to have any regrets, so if you think you should’ve been able to do something better or you should’ve got that extra run in, then just do it, because what’s the point of putting yourself in that position where you might not achieve what you want to achieve.

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You’ve come into the game at a period of transition, as the profile rises. Do you also feel like you’re treated like top-level athletes now?

Definitely. I’m fortunate to have come in at a time where you go straight into full-time professional football – so thanks to my parents for producing me at the right time! But no, I’m fortunate enough to be in that situation, but I also understand the struggles that the older girls have had and the way that they had to work. It just helps you understand how they experienced things. I’m obviously grateful, but you’ve also just got to enjoy it. Like I said before, it doesn’t last forever; football’s such a short career and you’ve got to try and achieve everything you can in such a short space of time.

The lifestyle seems quite relentless in a sense. How’s your headspace with it all?

You’ve got to be grateful, so constantly remind yourself that you’re in a fortunate position, but at the same time you’ve worked to get where you are. I’ve put the work in to get to where I am. I’ve been quite selfish, sacrificed things, time with my family, moved away at 16, not gone to family parties… little things that you’ve just got to say no to, whether it be nights out with friends or whatever. But that’s why I’m here now, and they can all enjoy these moments with me. You remember the trophies you lift, not the nights out you’ve been on.

Finally then, you’ve talked about dreams, but what are the dreams that you’ve not achieved yet that are very much in your head?

Champions League, in terms of club level. World Cup, Euros. I’ve only ever won the She Believes internationally, so would love to add something to that. I was fortunate enough in the younger age groups to get third at the Euros and third at the World Cup, but to be able to do that at Senior level would be a dream come true.

Domestically, Champions League, like I said. I’ve won quite a lot with City. I arrived at a good time and we were able to win some trophies, but yeah, Champions League.

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Daniel Jones

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