Kelly Smith feels the current crop could be the best group of England Women
players she has ever seen and has backed them to deliver at the Euros this summer.
The Lionesses last month won the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup on home soil following draws against Canada (1-1) and Spain (0-0) and a 3-1 victory over Germany.
That extended their unbeaten start under boss Sarina Wiegman, who had previously overseen six World Cup qualifying victories, with 53 goals scored and none conceded, after taking charge in September.
Asked if she could see the team winning this summer’s tournament, former England striker Smith said: “Absolutely. I think, if they don’t lose too many key players, they have a real good mix of youth and experience, and hunger within the side.
“I think the talent that they have is probably the best England squad I have seen ever, and I really believe that the opening game (against Austria at Old Trafford on July 6), the crowd gets behind them, then the world is their oyster. They have to go out and deliver and I believe they just really want to do it.
“They just have so many weapons going forward which I haven’t seen in previous England teams, and they have been consistent at the back. I just see greatness all over the pitch, and hopefully they can win it.”
When Wiegman – whose previous job as Holland manager included the side winning Euro 2017 and finishing as 2019 World Cup runners-up – took charge of England, they had lost nine of their last 14 games.
That sequence began with defeat to the United States in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals, a third successive major tournament last-four loss for the Lionesses, who were beaten by Wiegman’s Holland in the 2017 competition.
Smith said: “I think I have seen a shift in mentality. The new manager has a great pedigree and she has come in and galvanised this England team, she has got them believing.
“There are still some areas they need to work on, but I think we saw in the Arnold Clark Cup that they are fearless, and these players are hungry, hungry for success. I hope they can win it and take the game to another level.
“I just see they’ve made great strides under the new manager and I do think they can deliver in this Euros.
“The confidence is high and I think when you reach semi-finals and you have that experience of heartache and being so close, that can add extra drive for you.
“With it being on home soil, home crowd, you can either crumble or take that and add it as an extra string to your bow, and I think they will really deliveron the day.”
Smith, who retired in 2017 and was the Lionesses’ record scorer with 46 goals being surpassed by Ellen White in November, was speaking on Wednesday as the Football Association and Barclays hosted the ‘Biggest Ever Football Session’ for girls in schools across the country.
The event, involving over 80,000 schoolgirls, is part of the Let Girls Play campaign that was set up to support the ambition to give girls equal access to football in schools by 2024.
Smith said: “Growing up, I had none of this, I had to play on boys’ teams. It’s all about opportunity, and that is what this campaign does.
“It warms my heart, because I didn’t have that opportunity and it’s great now we’re doing this to help develop girls playing football, and the women’s game.”
Kelly Smith is a Barclays Football Ambassador. For more information about the FA and Barclays’ Let Girls Play campaign, go to www.englandfootball.com/LetGirlsPlay