Following the news of a forced player shuffle in the U23 squad before the Nordic Tournament, the injuries have spread to the senior squad in the wake of their European Qualifiers. Chelsea pair, Gilly Flaherty and Fran Kirby have withdrawn from the squad.
Flaherty, whose long exclusion from the squad prompted many to suggest that she’s missed her window, has been ever present in the side since England’s success at the 2015 World Cup, earning her first cap against China in the Dewellbon Cup.
Flaherty has impressed alongside captain and former [Arsenal] teammate, Steph Houghton, leaving some to suggest that the two would be the recognised centre-back pairing for the foreseeable future – however a knock at the inaugural SheBelieves Cup has blighted her progress.
For Flaherty, once again injury has gotten between herself and an England shirt, unsurprisingly called up for the most recent squad last week but following a scan on an unspecified leg injury at Chelsea, the defender failed to join-up with the squad in training.
Fran Kirby, whom we spoke to last week, has also been forced out of the squad with an undisclosed leg injury. Kirby is a far more familiar face in the England set-up, memorably scoring England’s first goal in last year’s World Cup. With her twenty-third birthday on the horizon, Kirby has already dazzled since her move to Chelsea, currently the top-goalscorer in WSL 1, it’s not hard to see the Reading-native featuring in the increasingly competitive squad for many years to come.
A wealth of depth
Following the news Mark Sampson has opted not to replace the injured pair and with several good reasons, firstly is the lack of time the replacements would have, most likely any player called up wouldn’t even have a training session before the first match at Adams Park.
There has been a suggestion that he could have drafted in players from the U23 squad (especially as both teams have been training at St. Georges Park) but given the sudden injury crisis Mo Marley has suffered, it would be unwise to deplete a squad that’s going to come up against strong opposition over the next few days.
Additionally, as the two matches are European qualifiers, that means coaches can only name a seven-man, not unlimited, bench. Calling up another two, who wouldn’t see a training session would simply mean adding two women to the three already relegated to the stands.
Maybe most importantly, Sampson doesn’t lack depth in his side, following injuries to Flaherty, Casey Stoney has been pairing with Houghton in recent games. Stoney, as a former England (and current Arsenal) captain has a wealth of experience and never looks out of place in any backline.
But he still has options, having called up Laura Bassett and Alex Greenwood – even though most would rather see Greenwood deployed as a full-back, the Liverpool defender has proved her solid defensive nous on multiple occasions and would slot in next to Houghton with ease.
Likewise in attack, Sampson has a veritable bounty available, Rachel Daly and Nikita Parris have both been in scintillating form for their respective clubs and are both poised to make their debuts for their national side. Karen Carney, Gemma Davison and Ellen White are all available to Sampson, as well as Jodie Taylor who’s finally back from an injury she picked up last time out with the England squad, at the SheBelieves Cup.
England host Serbia at Adams Park, High Wycombe on Saturday 4 June before traveling to Stara Pazova to complete their double-header against Serbia on Tuesday 7 June.