Two years ago Danielle Carter received her first England call-up. Unhappily she had to watch the Lionesses from the bench and did not even kick a ball. On Monday night the Arsenal striker was finally given her chance by Mark Sampson in Estonia, and wasted no time in announcing herself on the international stage.
The 22 year old waited only two minutes before netting her first goal, and added two more to complete a hat-trick in the closing minutes and round off a stellar debut. “It was a dream come true,” Carter said. “Obviously I’ve dreamt a lot of things but I never thought they would come true like that. It’s pretty much the perfect way it could have ended.”
Even Sampson, who had overlooked Carter until now, singled out the forward for special praise on a night when he felt the team had been profligate despite running out 8-0 winners. Carter does not disagree and admits there is more to come from both herself and her new-found colleagues.
“It’s always nice to be praised by the manager but it’s a team game. I had a lot of chances that I could have been more clinical with, as did some of my teammates. We definitely could have got more goals.”
Carter’s stunning performance in Tallinn came just two weeks after meeting Arsenal club legend, Thierry Henry. The Frenchman visited the Arsenal squad at their training ground and spoke to the girls about his career and experiences.
“It was a big surprise because none of us knew that he was going to come in. Obviously everyone has got a lot of respect for him, but also on a personal level people look up to him. It was really nice to listen to his insight and to what he thought about the game.”
Henry gave the squad some valuable advice which Carter certainly seems to have taken on board. “He spoke about his experiences at different clubs and sacrifices he had to take. One thing he said was ‘train as you dream’, which sounded quite cool. It was very inspiring to hear his point of view and what he thought about the game.”
Carter’s dream debut may have been just the kind of thing the former Barcelona man’s enigmatic “train as you dream” tip was referring to. Certainly if Henry caught any of the action from Tallinn – and he told the team he watched the Women’s World Cup and tries to tune in whenever Arsenal are on television – he would have noted the goals of a fellow Arsenal striker. “To follow in his footsteps would be remarkable,” said Carter.
Comparisons could be drawn between Carter and another of her idols, an Arsenal legend who also made an impact in her first England appearance, teammate Rachel Yankey. Her Lionesses debut came when Carter was just four. “Yanks has always been someone that I’ve looked up to,” Carter said. “It’s not exactly been overwhelming playing alongside her, but to think she’s a teammate, and she sees me as that, is a bit weird.”
And if Henry and Yankey were not enough to inspire Carter, her greatest sporting idol certainly knows a thing or two about being the best. “Outside of football [I look up to] Serena Williams, for what she’s achieved in tennis. I just think she’s an out-and-out athlete and no one can come near her. I just like watching her. I’m not even a tennis fan per se, but I do like her.”
Off the pitch, Carter describes herself as quite a “homely person” who enjoys shopping and badminton. She puts her success down to the support of her family, and particularly her mum, who ferried her backwards and forwards to training sessions and matches as a youngster.
“Family is everything really. I mean, besides football you always go back to your family. Although football is what you love and enjoy, family are always there regardless whether you win, draw or lose. I wouldn’t have been able to be where I am now without my mum. She’s always been, and probably still is, my number one supporter, and she still comes to my games with my little brother.”
Like many Women’s Super League players, Carter has other strings to her bow away from football. The former Leyton Orient trainee has recently qualified as a physiotherapist, having combined her football for the last few years with a course at Hertfordshire University. It is something she hopes to continue, even before she hangs up her boots. “Eventually I would like to be a full-time physio. But for now I want to concentrate on football because I’ve been in education for however long and I just want to have a bit of a break and maybe do things part-time.”
Her degree course has come in handy, too. “I do treat myself now in a sense and give our physio a little time off. If it’s a problem I can deal with, like strapping myself, then I’ll do it. I’m quite good when it comes to injuries. I’d only go to our own physio if I got seriously injured and didn’t know how to deal with it myself. But it’s good because it’s allowed me to understand what’s wrong and what I need to do to recover.”
Back on the pitch, Arsenal face an uphill task if they want to be crowned WSL champions as they sit five points adrift of leaders Chelsea with only two games to go. Back in the red of Arsenal, Carter hopes she maintain her international form. “I do hope to carry it into my club football. I believe we are still in with a chance. It’s not in our hands because we’re depending on others to drop points. But Liverpool were in the same situation last season and things went their way on the last day.”
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Article by Joseph Gleave
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