England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley: ‘Let’s just say it was dark, it wasn’t a very good time for me’

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England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley is determined to play for Great Britain at this summer’s Olympics after suffering a “dark period” with injury.

The 36-year-old helped England reach the semi-finals of three consecutive majors between 2015 and 2019, but has not played for her country since the 2019 World Cup quarter-final victory over the Norway, when she suffered a hamstring injury that then necessitated. surgery and impacted nearly 18 months of his career.

A veteran of 81 senior England caps, while injured, Bardsley watched her talented 21-year-old teammate Ellie Roebuck become Manchester City’s regular goalkeeper, and Bardsley was left out of the February England squad. before being called back for it. friendlies of the month against France and Canada.

In February, California-born Bardsley returned to the West Coast of the United States to join stars such as Megan Rapinoe at Washington-based company OL Reign on loan. of City aiming to increase their playing time.

When asked if she thought first place in England was still up for grabs, she replied: “I think so. In my mind, it’s still mine. I really didn’t do anything to lose it except hurt myself.

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“This [loan] move, I feel invigorated by it. I want to play, not just here to sit on the sideline.

“I’m recovering completely, in terms of what I want and from my previous experience. At the end of the day, I know what my strengths are. Each has a different set of strengths, but I am convinced that mine are unique, in combination with my experience.

Bardsley says recovering from her injury during the pandemic made her wonder if she still liked the game or not, adding, “Let’s just say it was dark, it wasn’t a very good time for me.

“It was a place of frustration, a place of a lot of questioning myself, am I good enough, am I still capable, do I still enjoy it?”

“I spent most of my time away from the training ground trying to think, ‘Well, I’ve got nothing to lose.’ At the end of the day, I thought it was important for people to know that it’s okay to be on loan as an older player.

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“Don’t get me wrong, I love being at [Manchester] City, I love to play there, but I’m a professional athlete, I want to play. I was not happy with what I was doing at the time. It [the loan] I just fell nice on my knees and I was like, ‘I’m just going to take this opportunity’. “

Bardsley, who was part of the Great Britain squad for the London 2012 Olympics, wants to see more women’s Super League players grab loan opportunities, adding: “You look at the loans in the men’s game and you think , why isn’t this more of an opportunity for the women of WSL to somehow get what they need when they need it?

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“Jesse Lingard has absolutely flown since being on loan [at West Ham] and he’s back in the England squad so I think it’s something important for young players to know, it’s not something to be afraid of, it’s just a another way to reach the final goal.

Bardsley is hopeful that the summer game schedule used by the league in the United States will increase his selection chances, helping him to be in peak form for the Tokyo Games, which begin in July, as the league English stops in May.

The GB team can only select a team of 18 female footballers, which means that only two goalkeepers are likely to travel to Japan, plus one more goalscorer on hold.

England interim coach Hege Riise, who will coach the GB squad this summer, will select his Olympic squad in May, following England’s friendlies against France and Canada on Friday and Tuesday respectively.

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