Sophie Ingle insists Wales will prove they have closed the gap on England in Friday night’s FIFA World Cup qualifier.
The Wales women’s captain is one of five survivors from the team that lost 4-0 to the old enemy at Cardiff City Stadium in 2014.
Eni Aluko was one of the scorers that night – a fact that illustrates how much water has flowed under the bridge in the four years since, when England were still managed by Welshman Mark Sampson.
It was Aluko’s allegations of racial abuse that were eventually upheld that led to the downfall of Sampson, but not before the former manager had set the Three Lions on a course that now sees them ranked the No.2 team in the world, behind the USA.
That is 32 places above Wales, but under manager Jayne Ludlow – who was appointed soon after that 4-0 defeat – Wales have made rapid strides themselves and currently sit top of the qualification group.
They have ground out hard fought and impressive results – two wins over Kazakhstan, a victory in Bosnia and a gutsy draw in Russia – and have no reason to fear the clash against their neighbours at Southampton’s St. Mary’s where up to 30,00 fans are expected.
“It’s great that we haven’t conceded a goal so far in the group, says Liverpool defender Ingle.
“That’s what we aspire to be a – a difficult side to score against and hopefully we can be like that again on Friday night. We are a hard-working team and sometimes it might not be pretty, but the result tends to be all people remember in these kinds of matches.
“The draw in Russia pleased me most, because it was hard-earned against a very good team. That’s how it will be against England as they are the second best team in the world at the moment. But it’s about us and our preparation – that’s what we are focusing on.
“Four years ago there was a gap between the teams, but I think we are getting closer.
“England are a very good side going forward, but we believe we can keep them out. We know our roles individually and we think we can nullify them.”
The fall-out from Sampson’s sacking was the appointment of Mo Marley as England manager on a caretaker basis, before the controversial appointment of Phil Neville to the permanent post.
The choice of the former England and Manchester United defender has proved divisive in the women’s game, although Ingle is more presently concerned about what on-field changes Neville may have brought, rather than his impact on the game in general.
“They are playing to their strengths a bit more – playing off playmakers like Fran Kirby.
“I might mention to my players that they have a new manager, and there could be something we could use to our advantage, but it’s more about us and the way we will fight to get a result.
“It would be massive to get a result there. But if we don’t, then it’s not the end of the world, either. The group is still very open.
“But we are harder to break down than we were. We are disappointed when we concede goals, because we know that’s not good enough.
“We will have a real go at them and get stuck in their faces. We will see if they are as good as everyone makes them out to be.
“The interest is going to be massive. There will be a big crowd and to hear people chanting will be massive for women’s football.
“For me to get a result as captain, in a game between Wales and England would be massive.”