England v Northern Ireland: ‘Fearless’ Northern Ireland ‘could raise eyebrows’ in friendly – Lauren Wade

Wade (left) helped Northern Ireland qualify for a Euro play-off last year
Venue: St. George’s Park, England Date: Tuesday, 23 February Kick-off: 12:30 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on the BBC Sport website and on BBC iPlayer

Northern Ireland’s Lauren Wade is hoping she and her team-mates can “raise a few eyebrows” in Tuesday’s friendly against England.

Kenny Shiels’ side take on the Lionesses at St George’s Park in what will be their only warm-up game before April’s Euro 2022 play-off.

Former Glasgow City midfielder Wade says the game could be a chance for the NI players to earn a place in the GB Olympic squad.

“That is an incentive,” she said.

“We are under no illusions, playing England is a challenge but this is why we play the game – we want to challenge ourselves at the highest level.

“There has been a lot of chat around the Olympics. Firstly, we are here to represent Northern Ireland and hopefully get a performance. Then you never know, a few girls could step up and maybe raise a few eyebrows.

“I think we are fearless and excited to be playing England. Of course, as a player you have those little nerves before a game, that is just normal, but everyone is here to play the best they can against some of the best players in the world.

“We have created history by reaching the Euro play-offs but this is going to test how far we have come as a team, and we are all really excited for the challenge.”

Lauren Wade
Wade is currently without a club after leaving Glasgow City

A 5-1 victory over the Faroe Islands at the start of December completed a four-match winning run for Northern Ireland in their Euro qualifying group, and saw them make history by securing a place in the Euro play-offs for the first time.

They do not know their play-off opponents yet and manager Shiels has spoken about the importance of the performance against England as he prepares his squad for April.

Wade, currently without a club after leaving Glasgow recently, was keen to stress the quality of a Northern Ireland squad that is made up of a lot of part-time players.

“I think that with the way things have gone for Northern Ireland and how well we have performed over the last 18 months, our players are getting more recognition,” she continued.

“We have quality players in our squad and Tuesday is another opportunity for them to showcase what they have got. There are definitely more players in our squad who could be playing full-time football in England or Scotland – or across Europe – in fact I think every player in our squad could be playing full-time football.

“A lot of them are part-time and they have that dream to be playing professional football, and hopefully more of them will get that chance.”

Kenny Shiels
NI women’s boss Kenny Shiels has previously managed Kilmarnock and Derry City

Wade made headlines when she scored for Glasgow City in the Champions League quarter-finals against Wolfsburg last summer and said the match against England will rank alongside that in terms of career highlights.

She is also confident of securing a new club soon, as well as stressing how much the Northern Ireland players enjoy meeting up for international training camps.

“Scoring against Wolfsburg in the Champions League was a dream come true, a goal I will never forget, but not much can top playing for your country against England,” she added.

“The mood has been great coming off the back of qualifying for the play-off. With everything happening in the world with the pandemic, we are all exited to be together again and see each other.

“We are always so excited to get back into camp and learn new things from the coaches. If there was a camp every week we would all be here. At St George’s Park, football is just about everywhere you look and it is great for us as players to be here.”

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