England’s latest fixture will a special occasion for Kick It Out ambassador and Barcelona forward Toni Duggan, who has been handed the captain’s armband by Phil Neville for the match against Austria.

Speaking ahead of the fixture, Toni said: “It’s a nice achievement for myself, I’m really looking forward to it, it’s a proud moment for myself and my family. I last captained the squad when I was in the Under-17s.

“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I feel like I’ve always been a vocal member of the squad and hopefully I’ve helped the likes of Georgia Stanway coming through. It’s a big occasion and I can’t wait.”

Toni’s selection as captain for the game comes off the back of what she feels is a significant development in her game at Barcelona. Toni is learning the Spanish style of football and feels it has only benefited her.

“I think a lot of people will sit there and say it’s changed me technically but for me it’s more tactically. I think in Spain the football is played very tactical and I’m back playing my number nine role, which I haven’t played since I was about 15.

“I enjoy being in the centre of the pitch and involved, but I have to be a lot more patient. If I lose the ball it’s the worst thing that can happen so you’re under pressure already when you receive it. Then when I come away with England I feel like it’s a lot easier for me and a lot more comfortable for me to get on the ball and be positive in that respect.”

Reflecting on the decision to make Toni captain, manager Phil Neville said: “It’s a challenge for her now. When I first got the job I saw an experienced player with great knowledge and underneath it all a really good leader and she doesn’t actually know what respect she has in the squad.

“Toni has done a couple of speeches for the team and they have been fantastic. She spoke in front of the England Netball Team and she has great authority and qualities in terms of her leadership. I felt as if this was the right moment just to say well done.

He added: “To captain your country is a great honour and sends a message to her that she’s experienced and one of the most important players on my team. The look in her eyes and the smile on her face was a special moment.”

Toni will captain England for the Austria game but hand the armband back to Steph Houghton for the Sweden game for the Manchester City player’s 100th cap.


Written by Kick It Out resident blogger Samantha Miller.