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Published 18 July 2023 5 min read
England Women's Senior Team

A Land Down Under, with Niamh Charles

Written by:

Niamh Charles

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England international on her first trip to Australia, Matildas star Sam Kerr and why she can't wait for her family to visit the Women's World Cup

This is the first time I have ever been to Australia but it was always somewhere I wanted to go to eventually. It is so far away so it's nice that we’ve had the chance to come here for football. I've got quite a few good friends who are from Perth so it is nice to have the chance to see their home country. 

Obviously, I play with Sam Kerr and whilst I haven't actually spoken to her about specifics, I suspect for her, this World Cup must be so exciting. She has spent so long away from home, especially with Covid, and now not only does she get to go home, but everyone is coming with her as well! 

Sam and my other friends would show me pictures of where they’re from in Perth and it always looked unbelievable and so beautiful. 

Sam and I have the odd bit of banter about the England-Australia rivalry but it is only in good jest. Sam's an absolute joker, so if you ever get drawn against each other, she's the first person to say things like ‘you're going to be looking at the back of my shirt’.

Niamh Charles and Sam Kerr have been team-mates since 2020
Niamh Charles and Sam Kerr have been team-mates since 2020

But I think that banter is one of the great parts of football and it’s good fun with her always. But yeah, she's the first person to give out for sure.

I think Sam's right up there with the world's best players. I see it every day in training, but you really see it in the biggest games as she's a big game player for sure. I love when I look around the dressing room and she's playing as it gives you such confidence because you know she's going to show up in the big games. 

What she does, she's the best in the world at it. I think her movement off the ball is so quick, which makes it so hard to defend, and her aerial ability, you cannot compete with it really. We’re very lucky to have her at Chelsea.

She was on the front of the FIFA box recently and when she comes into training, she's so chilled about stuff like that and so humble. So, we were saying to her ‘that’s well big’ and we were all so happy for her. 

For younger girls and boys, seeing players like Sam alongside notable figures like Kylian Mbappé has become almost normal. They simply see her as Sam Kerr but that kind of exposure wasn’t normal ten years ago. That growth in the women’s game is incredible and I couldn’t think of a better person for it to happen to.

Niamh Charles with her good friends Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo
Niamh Charles with her good friends Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo

Away from the football pitch, I had often heard how the coffee in Australia is amazing so I’ve been looking forward to that. All the Australians that come over do not like the coffee in England, so I was really excited to try it.

I just love experiencing and seeing different environments and when you look at England, it's a very different environment to Australia so it is really exciting.

My family is coming over as well so I’m looking forward to seeing them go off on their day trips and sort of experience it vicariously through them.

I've got my mum and my dad, and my brother and my sister, coming to Australia, which is really nice because that's not happened in years because my sister's off doing stuff and my brother can't really go because he's been in school. So it’s going to be really special that we're all out in Australia at the same time. 

It is going to be such a great life experience for them and for my little brother to go so early in his life. I'm really excited for them and hopefully, they have a great holiday as well.

18 Jul 2023 9:04

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It is so far away and it is a big ask for them to come over so it's not lost on me how lucky I am that they're going to be here.

Being able to see them and having a break from the camp environment with the people that know me best, and who I am totally comfortable with, I'm really looking forward to being able to spend some time with them, together as a five, which we rarely have the chance to do.

To be honest, before I left, it still hadn't properly sunk in that I'm going to my first World Cup. Obviously, it's what I've been working on for a long time and it was obviously my dream, as it was everyone else who is here I’m sure. It's pretty special and I still can't believe it.

I have obviously been on the verge of making squads and just missed out a lot of times so I think that's probably why I say I can't believe it because I've been so used to not quite making it fully. 

But I’ve put missing out on the EUROs to bed a bit – I think I did that once it had happened to be honest – so I could move on and not let it affect anything. So I don't really couple them together much, even if I did use it this year to help me really push on. 

So whilst I have separated it, when you look at it as a whole picture then it does make reaching this World Cup a bit sweeter I guess.

The World Cup gets bigger and bigger every time and seeing how far the game has come is something special for us to celebrate together and hopefully, we can enjoy it as much as possible.

Kyle Walker and Jill Scott

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