Laura Coombs shocked as 'really unique journey' continues
'I didn’t think about the international stage anymore'
Laura Coombs admits she had stopped thinking about earning an England call-up with it being two years since her last camp and more than seven years since her previous caps.
So it came as a huge shock to the box-to-box midfielder when her exceptional form for Manchester City earned a call-up for this month’s Arnold Clark Cup campaign.
Coombs said: “I was surprised because it’s been so long. I didn’t think about the international stage anymore. I was thinking I was going to get a break over the international window, but I'm really happy to be here.
“It was a shock but now I’m here, I’m ready to get down to work.
“It's not that I had given up. In my early years, it was all I wanted. But when you don’t get selected, you have to at some point park that and focus on your club, otherwise, you get disappointed a lot and it starts to affect you negatively.
“So it's amazing and such an honour to be here but it's not what I was working towards.”
Coombs earned two caps under Mark Sampson back in October 2015 but then had to wait until November 2020 before Phil Neville included the former England youth international in a 30-player training camp.
With no further call-ups to follow and having turned 32 last month, Coombs was not expecting to hear from England head coach Sarina Wiegman.
“I was actually in the ice bath at Manchester City with Bunny Shaw when Sarina called,” Coombs said.
“She'd actually called earlier on my way in [to City’s training ground] and I didn’t have the number – I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t know.
“After training when I was in the ice bath, there was another call and I thought they must have my number if they're trying to call over WhatsApp so I answered it and was like ‘Hello?’. Then the conversation happened and I was just taken aback. It was amazing.
“Bunny’s been teasing me saying: ‘You should be in the international squad’ so she was like: ‘I told you’. It was typical Bunny.”
Coombs believes she has grown as a person both on and off the pitch over the last seven years, admitting she was incredibly shy when receiving her first call-up back in 2015.
Women's and girls' grassroots football
The Gravesend-born midfielder puts her improved form at City down to being really comfortable at the club, plus feeling valued and being pushed by manager Gareth Taylor and the players every day.
Coombs also immediately felt at home when she arrived at St. George’s Park this week as she knows a lot of the players in the current squad and has been impressed by the high standard in training.
She said: “It's weird because I am the oldest player here and I've never been that player in a team before! Luckily I don’t feel old so it's all good.
“It feels really fresh, everyone is really positive, the talent level is so high, and I just feel coming into this now, I'm more of a senior player and I do feel more comfortable than maybe I did in the past.”
She continued: “It's a really positive place, coming off the back of the EUROs.
“It's an amazing group to be a part of and you just feel lucky when you're out there training that the level is so high, so you're only going to be tested every day and it's great to be a part of it.”
Coombs had not spoken to Wiegman previously, having not been on any of the previous standby lists, but is already enjoying working with the head coach.
She said: “We’ve had a couple of meetings and she seems really approachable as a manager. That’s what you want from your manager: someone you can go and feel comfortable speaking to.
“We’ve only had one training session so far but I’m excited to see what she’s like going forward.”
She added: “She’s told me the type of player she sees me as so I’ve got a good idea of how she wants me to play.
“It’s more a case of bedding into the team and how the team wants to play because it will be slightly different to what I’m used to with my club. I have that drilled into my brain so I need to open myself up to the team and her way of playing.”
In the next week, England will play South Korea, Italy and Belgium in the Arnold Clark Cup, before having the first-ever Women's Finalissima at Wembley Stadium plus another match in April before this summer’s World Cup.
Coombs stressed she is not letting herself think too much about a potential first major tournament with England just yet and is prioritising bringing her club form onto the international scene.
She said: “It's incredible [to be here at this time in history] and I just feel extremely privileged and lucky.
“Knowing that there is this camp and one more camp before the squad is announced is a bit mind-blowing for me but it's an amazing opportunity. With three games, hopefully I can get some pitch time and show what I can do.”
When pressed on the World Cup, she continued: “It would be incredible [to make the World Cup], knowing that my last cap was eight years ago. That's a really unique journey and I'm not sure there would be that many players who have had that long between call-ups.
“It's something I thought had passed for me, so [making the World Cup now] would be even more special.”