England Women head coach Phil Neville has named a squad peppered with youth for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup.
Six players from Neville's squad – Grace Fisk, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly, Sandy MacIver, Ellie Roebuck and Georgia Stanway – featured in the England team which won bronze at the 2018 U20 World cup while another from that contingent, Alessia Russo, has been invited to train with the squad.
Neville described telling some of those younger players they'd made the squad as 'my best day in the job'.
He said: 'The emotion, the pride. It was goose bumps. I have had many moments in my career where I think 'that was a good moment', but that tops any of it.
'When you feel the emotion within their voice and their pride, they have worked all their lives for this moment. Sometimes you take it for granted when you have been in this environment a long time.' The head coach sees the inclusion of these players, the previously uncapped Fisk and MacIver, and Kelly who has one cap, in particular, as evidence that he and his team are building a route to the senior team for younger players. He said: 'What that does for Rehanne Skinner, Mo Marley and Emma Coates is it says we will put our money where our mouth is and there is a pathway to the first team.
'We said it to them 18 months ago and I think people probably didn't believe us. In the introduction of my first SheBelieves, we took Georgia and Ellie as training players and the year after they were in the squad.
'Last year Lauren and Sandy came to SheBelieves as training players, they smelled the environment and now they are full time players in the squad.
'It has been 18 months in the planning and when you pick young players, they give the squad an energy. If you are good enough, you are old enough.'
The England women's U20 team is now defunct – following a review in September 2018, the FA decided to merge the U20 and U23 squad to form a U21 team, now the top tier of England's professional development phrase. But what of the bronze medal winners from the U20 squad that don't feature in Neville's SheBelieves plans? And how far away are they from a senior call up?
Age: 21 Club: Syracuse Orange
It was Allen who scored the winning penalty to secure the third-place finish for England in 2018. The midfielder is currently playing her final semester at Syracuse University where she captains the team.
Across the 2017, 18 and 19 seasons in the US Allen registered 44 appearances and 4 goals. It remains to be seen what her next step is following graduation but, like Grace Fisk did, Allen may benefit from returning to England to play her football to make it easier for Phil Neville to track her.
Age: 21 Club: Liverpool Babajide is currently having a standout season for Liverpool. She picked up the team's player of the month award for January following a string of impressive displays, including an FA cup victory over Blackburn Rovers which saw her score 4 goals. More recently she scored the first goal in her side's 3-2 defeat to reining WSL champions Arsenal. Babajide is pretty well known already (she's got more Twitter followers than Lauren Hemp), mostly thanks to the press she received in 2016 when her university side, University of East London women's football team, put 40 past University College, London.
The winger, who can also play as a striker, is a regular fixture in Mo Marley's U21 squad but she is still yet to feature in Neville's plans which means she could still choose to represent Nigeria at senior level due to her Nigerian roots.
Age: 20 Club: Liverpool
Charles' name was one that came up in Neville's squad announcement press conference when he said: 'If I was an Under-19 player now or Niamh Charles, Lauren James or Anna Patten, I would think 'I am a step closer to being an international player because there is a manager in place and a system to pick young players.''
The winger came through Liverpool's academy and is currently living the dream in their first team. If the Reds are to avoid relegation again this season, it's likely Charles will have a lot to do with it which will only strengthen her case for a call up to Neville's side.
Club: Missouri Tigers Cross played youth football at Chelsea before making the move to the USA. In her first game back for the Tigers following the World Cup she tore her ACL, ending her season. She returned to action almost a year later, in August 2019, and went on to play nine games in her Sophomore season.
She continues to work her way back to full fitness, and – she'll hope – back into England's plans.
Finnigan has spent her career at Everton, having graduated from the club's Centre of Excellence, and has established herself as an important first team player.
She's versatile – able to play as a midfield anchor or a defender – and is also a mainstay in Mo Marley's U21 squad. Having seen her teammates Kelly and MacIver get their chance in the senior squad, Finnigan will be hoping she can soon follow suit and join what Neville called 'the nucleus of the U20 team that are going to break into the [senior] squad together.'
Age: 20 Club: Everton
Hinds has been unlucky to find herself as Everton's second choice right back behind Manchester City loanee Esme Morgan this season. Out of contract in June this year, she's still likely to earn a new contract though, with Morgan due to return to her parent club.
Her last call up to the England U21 squad was in April 2019, and she'll hope that more game time for the Blues will result in another call up.
Club: Sheffield United
Johnson learned her trade at the Blackburn Rovers Centre of Excellence, much like Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway, before earning a move to Liverpool where she spent a year before being released and joining Bristol City.
The full-back only ended up making a handful of appearances thanks to a serious injury. She dropped down to the Championship when she joined Sheffield United for the 2019-2020 season, and is currently working her way back to form in a Blades team pushing for promotion.
Club: Everton (on loan from Manchester City)
Following her contribution to the U20 World Cup, Morgan has had further success with England, captaining the U19 team at the 2019 U19 championships – though England failed to make it out of the group stage.
She's currently having a successful season at Everton, claiming the right-back spot as her own ahead of compatriot Taylor Hinds. It looks likely that once she's recalled to Manchester City next season she'll get a chance to vie for her position with City currently regularly playing Georgia Stanway out of position at right back.
Known to most as 'Maz', Pacheco is currently playing for Reading while also studying for a law degree at the University of Sheffield. The natural left back is appearing regularly for the Royals first team and scored her first ever goal for them in their January FA Cup victory over London City Lionesses.
There are no Reading players in the current England squad, with Jade Moore and Fara Williams both missing out, but Pacheco will be hoping Neville is continuing to keep an eye on her club.
Club: South Carolina Gamecocks
Patten has been called up to Neville's side before: she was in the squad for the 2019 games against Belgium and Norway but didn't feature.
Like Charles, Patten will take heart from Neville's reference to her in his press conference, and of this crop of players, she certainly seems one of those highest up the England boss's list for a call up.
She's great friends with Grace Fisk, with having played for the Gamecocks before moving to West Ham this year. For Patten too, a move to the UK could solidify her chances with the national team.
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
The U20 Lionesses scored 17 goals in total – including penalties – during the 2018 World Cup. Fifteen of those goals were scored by the those that have made Neville's SheBelieves squad, Russo included. Apart from Georgia Allen, Peplow was the only other player to score when she put away England's 4th penalty in their third place match against France.
She spent her youth career at Birmingham City and after a spell with Brighton is now playing for Tottenham.
Solidifying her position at the heart of the Spurs midfield is the next step in looking to work her way into Neville's plans.
Club: Sheffield United (on loan from Manchester United)
Ramsey, the only goalkeeper from the U20 World Cup squad not to feature in the latest senior Lionesses squad, was an unused substitute in the 2018 tournament. Since the competition she's featured for the U19 team.
The 19-year-old is currently playing her club football at Sheffield United, where she's on loan from Manchester United, but she's yet to start a game this season.
Ramsey has a lot of developing still to do before she's likely to make the senior England squad, but her height could put her at an advantage. At 5 ft 11, she's only one inch shorter than Karen Bardsley and significantly taller than all of the keepers in the current squad.
Club: University of Central Florida
Rouse was a star at the Aston Villa Centre of Excellence: she was part of the U17 team that won two consecutive Centre of Excellence league titles, the first of which they won undefeated.
She impressed for a while in the senior side before moving to the US, initially to play for the Louisville Cardinals and then the Florida Knights where she is currently a junior.
Rouse is an industrious, box to box midfielder who played a massive part in England's 2018 World Cup campaign.
Club: Bristol City
Wellings, a natural number nine, has typically been used as a midfielder this season by Bristol manager Tanya Oxtoby.
She joined the Robins in 2019 following the expiry of her contract with Birmingham where she had benefited from the guidance of striker Ellen White.
Wellings could really prove her worth at Bristol this season if she's able to help guide them away from the bottom of the table.