Georgia Stanway is England’s wind-up toy with ‘a foot like a traction engine’

OWhen Georgia Stanway was 15 and needed shooting practice, she enlisted her mother in goalie action. With no alternative available, Joanne Stanway donned a pair of gloves and positioned herself between the specially installed goal posts in the family’s back garden in Cumbria.

As a former athlete who had raced for Great Britain at the Youth Olympic Games, Joanne thought she was up to the challenge but was soon shocked by the speed of her daughter’s shots from distance.

Shortly after, Joanne admitted to having “tried to dodge the ball rather than save it” and the next morning complained of being “black and blue all over”.

In a very different context, Spain goalkeeper Sandra Paños felt a similar sense of helplessness as Stanway’s 22-yard flare of a shot burned its way past her outstretched fingers in the quarter-final. of Wednesday night’s Euro 2022 at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.

Extra time was underway when the 23-year-old from Barrow-in-Furness ensured England came from behind to secure the 2-1 win that sealed their place in Tuesday’s semi-final against Sweden or Belgium at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane.

That goal will occupy a valuable place in an already vast collection of game-changing finishes from an attack recently signed by Bayern Munich and frequently described, in a term coined by Alan Partridge, as possessing a right foot “like a traction engine”.

As befits a teenager who idolized Newcastle and England centre-forward Alan Shearer – Stanway’s family are big Newcastle fans – her early years at Blackburn’s academy were spent as a striker.

Georgia Stanway lets fly to complete England's Euro 2022 quarter-final turnaround against Spain.
Georgia Stanway lets fly to complete England’s Euro 2022 quarter-final turnaround against Spain. Photography: Vince Mignott/EPA

These days, she’s a box-to-box central player for England, but it was only after joining Manchester City as a 16-year-old that Stanway went down. Although his preferred role is now as No.10 behind centre-forward, that spot in Wiegman’s squad is filled by brilliant Chelsea attacking playmaker Fran Kirby, forcing Stanway to operate slightly out of position. at the heart of the engine room of the Lionesses.

That proves no difficulty for a player blessed with such drive and zest that, watching her run against defenders, it’s easy to imagine she’s being powered by some sort of internal clockwork engine. “Georgia has so much energy that you just have to wind it up before a game and let it go like a wind-up toy,” Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor once observed.

When representatives of Bayern Munich, one of the brightest lights in Europe’s women’s footballing firmament, spotted Stanway at City last season, they could have been forgiven for doing a double take when Taylor sidestepped a crisis of injuries while lining up his little 5-foot-4 “firefighter” in a matched outfield. posts.

Typically, Stanway nailed most of them, even impressing at right-back – well outside of her comfort zone – while her City and England team-mate Lucy Bronze recovered from a knee operation. “I would play in goal if I had to,” Stanway joked.

The only concern, something that extends to his current record in England to some extent, was Stanway’s pinch for conceding too many fouls and occasionally launching into reckless tackles. “I like a fight and I can be a bit naughty,” concedes a fundamentally selfless “team player” who grew up playing alongside boys at Barrow’s Strawberry Fields recreation ground.

Phil Neville, Wiegman’s predecessor as permanent England manager, believes his background has served him well. “I said to Georgia, ‘Pretend you’re in Cumbria Park playing with your friends and having fun,'” he says. “That’s when Georgia is at its best.”

Georgia Stanway takes a selfie with fans after his former club Manchester City beat Reading 4-0 in May.
Georgia Stanway takes a selfie with fans after his former club Manchester City beat Reading 4-0 in May. Photography: Luke Walker/The FA/Getty Images

Stanway doesn’t disagree. “I feel more comfortable when I play with a smile,” she says. “I’m happiest when the ball moves easily and I play with freedom, run at people and get shots.”

Growing up with three brothers, also a cricket like gave up when free time became a talent but devoured by training with training or making the four hour round trip to east Lancashire from Barrow in his parents’ car

Former Manchester City manager Nick Cushing, the New York men’s interim head coach, signed Stanway after the then teenager scored 35 goals in 15 games for Blackburn’s senior side .

“Georgia’s work ethic was incredible and her thirst for creating and scoring goals was unmatched,” Cushing said. “But she loves playing football.”

Wednesday night’s winner, not to mention the lucrative transfer to Bayern, made every worthwhile sacrifice from the Stanway family. Yet success is unlikely to go to the head of a woman in a long-term relationship with Toulouse rugby league full-back Olly Ashall-Bott.

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In England, the couple share a home in Widnes, Cheshire, where during lockdown they got hooked on fishing. “On our second outing only, Georgia caught the biggest fish ever,” Ashall-Bott said. “She’s so competitive in everything she does.”

There is, however, a more thoughtful and warm side to one who, despite having traveled extensively abroad, describes the Lake District as ‘my favorite place in the world’ and loves nothing better than ‘tinkering around the House”.

Indeed, it is safe to assume that his house is tidy. “I like to tidy up, I like to clean up, I like to sort responsible drawers,” says the woman of finally bringing some order to England’s initially rather chaotic game plan against Spain.

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