England’s Karen Carney returning to the West Midlands as the Lionesses face Bosnia & Herzegovina
Home is where the heart is and local girl Karen Carney cannot wait to return and represent her country in the West Midlands.
England will play their second World Cup qualifying game at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium on November 24 against Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Chelsea winger believes the crowd will provide a special boost when the Lionesses take to the turf under the watchful eye of interim boss Mo Marley, who will oversee her first competitive game in charge.
And 30-year-old Carney admitted it was the fiery passion for football displayed by the West Midlands supporters that ignited her love of the beautiful game.
The Birmingham-born star made her debut for her home town club back in 2001 at the age of just 14 and despite leaving for Arsenal in 2006, she returned to the Blues in 2011 after a spell in America and scored the winning goal in the 2012 FA Cup final – cementing her place in the Birmingham City hall of fame.
So coming back to the area with the Lionesses is something she is looking forward to and knows that the crowd will play a big part in helping Marley’s side get the points they need.
And with the game being played under the lights due to the 7.05pm kick off, Carney is expecting a great atmosphere in Walsall.
“The West Midlands crowd, they’re massive football fans and there’s a lot of teams and history around there,” said Carney, who has netted 31 times in 134 appearances for the national side.
“There’s a lot of clubs but they’re generally just mad football fanatics.
“I was a mascot for Birmingham as an eight-year-old for my birthday, being a football team mascot isn’t every eight-year-old girl’s birthday wish – it especially wasn’t 22 years ago.
“I have to give credit to my parents that I was lucky enough that they took me to do that and I just fell in love with the game and how it brings people together.
“I wanted to walk out with Steve Claridge because he was my idol and I managed to have a photo with him and walked out with him so it was pretty special.”
If she plays, it will not be the first time Carney has graced the turf of the home of the Saddlers in an England jersey, she has played there twice before, a 3-0 win over Croatia in 2012 but it was a 4-1 win over Czech Republic back in 2005 that sticks most fondly in her mind.
And while she is used to the lifestyle of playing around the country and beyond for the Lionesses, Carney admitted there is no place like home for a player to compete.
“It’s a nice compact stadium, I like it, you’re close to the fans and it’s quite an intimate ground,” she added.
“I’ve got some fond memories of being there, [in the Czech Republic game] Rachel Unitt got a couple of goals and that was pretty special because she was a proper local girl from that area.
“It’s always nice to be able to come home, when the northern girls played at Tranmere the other week they played very much at home.
“It’s special because a lot of your family members can come, it’s not too far so you’ve got that local support.
“It’s pretty cool to feel at home because we travel so much to different venues all the time, even with our club teams, so sometimes it’s nice to actually feel at home.”
England face Bosnia & Herzegovina in a FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier at Walsall FC on 24 November. Buy tickets (£10 Adult/£1 Under-18) at www.thefa.com/tickets