Hard work pays off for 'shocked' Carter
Jess Carter’s England recall may have come as a shock to the Chelsea defender but it is just reward for all the hard work she has been putting in following what she admits was a much-needed change in mindset.
Carter’s talent has never been in question. She was first called up to the England women’s senior team in April 2017 whilst still a 19-year-old and that was swiftly followed by the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year award for that season.
But her Lionesses’ debut as a 77-minute substitute against Kazakhstan in November 2017, shortly after her 20th birthday, has been her only senior cap so far.
Carter joined Chelsea from Birmingham City the following summer but often found regular starts hard to come by for the London club.
With one of the most impressive squads in world football, it’s easy to see why your minutes may be limited playing for the Blues but Carter admits she also needed to take personal responsibility.
Carter said: “I think it has been a bit of a whirlwind year for me. There have been a lot of changes for me personally - from my position, to fitness and off-the-pitch lifestyle - so there have been big changes there.
“We have also been in some big competitions [at club level] so it has been a big year from me.
“I have just been focussing on getting myself into the best physical shape and then letting the football do the talking after.
“The biggest area that I have had to work on is my physical performance and maintaining that at a high standard. It is something I have really worked hard on with Chelsea, to get to that level, so that it is not a problem for me anymore and I can focus on my football.”
When asked what the catalyst was for those changes, Carter replied: “I was just tired of sitting on the bench! There were a few things. I was tired of sitting on the bench and a lot of the time one of the reasons why I wasn’t being played was because I wasn’t fit enough.
“It was like they were already thinking about making the substitution before I had even got on to the pitch, sort of thing, so I think it was a change in mindset.
“It has taken a long time – it is better late than never – for me to switch my mindset to ‘you are here now and you really need to compete’, whereas I would say I was a bit of a coaster before and just going along.
“I couldn’t do that anymore if I wanted to play at the highest level.”
And Carter’s hard work has paid off, making 19 appearances for the Blues last season as they lifted the FA Women’s Community Shield, Continental Tyres League Cup, Barclays FA Women’s Super League and reaching the UEFA Women’s Champions League final.
Carter, who can play in defence or midfield, earned a new contract in the process and earlier this month was given an England recall by new head coach Sarina Wiegman.
The 23-year-old said: “I am really excited. It has been a really long time. I have worked really hard away at my club and you want to be playing with the best, so it is really special for me to be called up again and I am really excited to be here.”
She continued: “It has been four years since I was with England so it is completely different now. It almost feels like I am coming to a new team again and I am asking the most basic questions around dos and don’ts.
“But it is a good time to be joining because with Sarina taking over, it is a new time for everyone. So it is nice because it is a fresh slate for everyone.”
When England players are called up by their national team they are often notified first through an email which is sent out but for Carter, she found out in the same way as many of the Lionesses fans – courtesy of social media.
She said: “Obviously we get an email but I was out shopping when the email came so I was trying on some clothes and my partner told me ‘come here, come here!’ so she actually told me because she found out on social media half an hour later, because I hadn’t seen the email.
“I don’t know how I felt. I am not someone who is too emotional as a person so I was like ‘Ok, that’s cool’ but then the closer it got to camp and as I started thinking about how we were going to camp, I think I was probably just a bit shocked because there are so many players who could be here and I was surprised.
“I wasn’t expecting it and it was a real surprise. I honestly had no idea it was coming.
“You want to be here but I had no expectations I would be here because it has been so long. So I have just been trying to focus on my club.
“It is not that I didn’t think about England because I did but I was trying to focus so hard on getting things right with my club that I didn’t think this would be an option so soon.”
Carter was speaking on Tuesday from England women’s training base ahead of Friday’s 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign opener against North Macedonia at Southampton’s St. Mary’s Stadium.
The players had just had their first full training session with new head coach Wiegman, who joins from the Netherlands having guided them to UEFA European Championship glory in 2017 and a FIFA World Cup final two years later.
Carter said: “I had never crossed paths with Sarina before but my first impressions are really good. She seems really nice. She is super chilled but she is still to the point and direct, which I think you have to be and it is what I personally prefer from a coach - that directness - to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“So far, the first few days have been really good.
“She is very relaxed and composed but you can be those things whilst still demanding high standards.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) September 13, 2021
“In training in the first session today (Tuesday) she was trying to raise the quality in different areas and so far she has not been a shouter or anything but when she talks, you listen.
“She obviously knows what she is talking about and I am really looking forward to working with her.”
Tickets are still available for Friday night’s match with North Macedonia, with adults costing £15, concessions £5 and children £2.50.
It will be the first time the England women’s senior team have played in front of home supporters since November 2019 and Carter cannot wait.
She said: “It is really exciting [to be playing in front of the England fans again]. For us as a club, having the fans back has been amazing. I personally underestimated how much we needed the fans. It was not until we played these last two games that I realised how much of an impact they make.
“So I can only imagine when you are in an England shirt, with the fans supporting you, it is going to be even bigger, even more exciting and even more special.”