During the January training camp in La Manga VAVEL UK grabbed a couple of minutes with English ex-pat, Toni Duggan about meeting back up with England and life at Barcelona.
A member of the U19 team that won gold at the European Championships in Belarus nine years ago under the watchful eye of coach, Mo Marley, Duggan has enjoyed the time she’s spent with the interim coach, Marley one of the more influential in her career:
“It’s a big honour to play under Mo again", says Duggan. "Everyone’s aware of the time I spent with her and the impact she’s had on my career from when I was really young both with Everton and England. At senior level having the chance and opportunity to work with Mo again is really nice to be back with her and I think she’s been given a good opportunity as well.”
The circumstances surrounding Marley’s appointment to England manager were far from rosy, but a calm hand who’s more than familiar with the first team from their time coming through her youth teams, the ship has been kept steady under the Liverpudlian, states the England forward.
“Mo’s been great since she’s come in and it’s been difficult circumstances but everyone’s been really proud to work under her again, we’ve tried our best to give it everything the last two qualifiers. In terms of whoever gets the job next, the squad, the staff and FA, everyone owes a lot to Mo for the way she’s handled everything and great credit to her, for the way she’s been.”
Drawn into Group 1 for UEFA World Cup qualification, England have done well to avoid the likes of the Netherlands and Iceland from Pot 2, rather drawing lowest ranked Russia. Wales, a stubborn Bosnia & Herzegovina side and Kazakhstan, England’s other opponents in the group, though as Duggan notes, there are no easy games,
“To be honest we have some difficult opponents, Russia are a difficult team, Wales as well is going to be a difficult game and Bosnia was only 1-0, I think in the women’s game now any game can be close. We’ve come a long way from the days of teams are beating people 9-0 and stuff, everyone can be difficult and pose questions but we’ve got a great set of girls and we’ll be fully focused whatever opponent we have.”
¿Qué camino al estadio?
Having played in England for her entire career before moving to Spain’s Liga Iberdrola, Duggan doesn’t feel much difference when she meets back up with the England team, her journey from Barcelona slightly more complicated than Manchester.
“No it’s not different for me to be honest", she states. "I always knew what I was getting into when I signed for Barcelona. It’s quite refreshing actually, being away from the girls and then coming back and mixing with them again because we’ve known each other for a long time. I’ve gone out there to test myself and hopefully impress in Spain but it’s nice to come back with the girls who you’ve spent a long time with and catch up with them feel like you’re back home.”
Settling in well, the attacker has taken to her new team like a duck to water, the full experience something she’s certainly enjoying.
“I think it’s been really good, really eye-opening, I went there with the impression that it would be technical team and a technical league and it’s lived up to the expectation if not surpassed it. The technical quality is very, very good and hopefully I can learn something in my time there and bring it back on the international stage and help girls around me as well.”
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Duggan encourages other to follow
As for the language? Well that’s coming on.
“It’s not too bad, I’ve been practising this week in La Manga so it’s nice that we’ve come out to Spain and I can put in the practice and be around Spanish people but it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of trying to learn a new language, so far so good but far from fluent.”
With English players favouring to stay at home in the WSL, Duggan was one of a handful who left for pastures greener this summer, her advice to others thinking of spreading their wings?
“I think every one’s going to be different and depending on what country you go to, there’ll be different cultures and just the way others live, so I say, just go open minded.
Obviously, it helps if there are English speakers on your team and sometimes you just speak English with those who speak English and if none of them speak English you’re just forced to learn but I would say don’t be put off by the language barrier or things like this.
It’s important to step out of your comfort zone when you play football or in any walk of life, you know, really challenge yourself and who knows, you really might enjoy it.”