Against Austria on Saturday, Millie Bright will lead the England national team out as they bid to continue their perfect start to their World Cup qualifying campaign against arguably the second-strongest nation in their group. For Bright, who will also captain the Lionesses when they take on Latvia in Doncaster on Wednesday, it is a landmark moment.
“It’s amazing,” the Chelsea centre-back said at a press conference. “I think no matter what age you are, how many times you’ve done it before, it’s always going to be a huge honour representing your country, and not only that but then leading the girls out for this camp is obviously an exciting opportunity.
“But, for me, nothing changes, the aims are still the same – keep performing well and hopefully lead the team to two more victories.”
Manager Sarina Wiegman has impressed so far despite being without long-term captain Steph Houghton and her replacement Leah Williamson, who misses this camp with a hamstring injury. But the fact that England have such strength in depth when it comes to leaders in the dressing room, something Bright herself alluded to later in the press conference, should give the fans huge confidence heading into both the Euros on home soil next summer, and the World Cup in 2023.
Aside from the three aforementioned leaders, Jill Scott is still involved with over 150 caps to her name, experienced forward Ellen White will secure her 100th cap this weekend and regular goalscorer Beth Mead is emerging as a key figure in the dressing room. England might be down to their third-choice captain, but that does not mean that the professionalism or leadership will be lost from the team in any way, shape or form.
As for the new manager, her English is improving as the weeks go by, to the extent where she told Bright of the good news with ‘a little chit-chat’.
Bright told the media: “She just asked me for a little chat – we’ve actually taught her a new little phrase, ‘little chit-chat’, and she was like: ‘Can I take you for a chit-chat?’ And then just asked me if I was happy to be captain for this camp.
“I was a little bit stunned at first. We’ve got a lot of leaders and experience in the team. I was just very humbled and honoured to be given that opportunity.”
England’s road to the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand has been nothing short of a procession so far, albeit just four games in. But in those four matches, the Lionesses have scored 32 goals without reply, securing two 10-0 wins along the way.
Wiegman’s side have found this qualifying group all too easy but that is perhaps a signal to the disparity between the international teams in the women’s game more than anything else, and the smaller nations will only improve as time progresses. Austria await and should provide a marginally tougher test having picked up ten points from their opening four matches but England should still win this one and continue on their march to the World Cup.
With leaders galore in the dressing room and a manager who is getting the best out of the attacking talent, albeit against weak opposition, the future looks bright for England. Given she will be proudly wearing the captain’s armband for the next two matches - the present does as well.