Claire Rafferty: England are eager to send a message to rivals ahead of Euro 2017

Once a Lioness, always a Lioness. Chelsea full-back Claire Rafferty is back in the England squad for the final home qualifier before Euro 2017 – and it’s like she’s never been away.

“I’ve been in and around the squad for a long time, I know how everything works,” she said.

“If I’ve forgotten to do something, one of the girls is there to point me in the right direction before I get in trouble!”

The team ethic and spirit in the England camp is well known, and each time the players join up with the squad, the key values are reiterated.

erbia - England head coach Mark Sampson - Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

The Lionesses’ head coach, Mark Sampson – Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

“It’s nice to have that consistency, to know where the team is heading and what you need to do to get there,” Rafferty added.

“It’s all positive stuff – it’s all with the end goal of being one of the best teams in the world and winning the Euros, so you can’t really argue with that.”

Tonight’s game against Estonia will be a good chance to remind the rest of Europe that even if they weren’t at the Rio Olympics, England are still a force to be reckoned with.

“It’s really sad, actually,” admitted Rafferty.

“Having been caught up in the experience first-hand in 2012 and the effect it had on women’s football, it was one of the biggest reasons that people started to take notice of us.

“To sit back and see the hockey girls do so well, and the media attention they got, knowing that we could have potentially done that well… It’ll be like, ‘Hi, we’re still here! We’re still going! You don’t have to wait too much longer to see us in a major tournament!’”

Photo: Offside/L'Equipe

England and Chelsea defender, Rafferty – Photo: Offside/L’Equipe

And although England have already qualified for next summer’s tournament, they will not be going easy on tonight’s visitors.

“It’s about sending a message across to all the other teams,” Rafferty said.

“It’s not just getting two or three goals – we need to really go for it. We need to finish top and be in the best situation.

“Winning this game will be one more step towards doing that.”

England play Estonia at Meadow Lane, Nottingham, on Thursday, September 15 (19:05pm).

*Carrie Dunn is SHOOT’s Women’s Football correspondent. Her book ‘The Roar of the Lionesses: Women’s Football in England’ is out now – available in all good bookshops.*
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