Former England captain Gill Coultard recounts Sky Sports News’ Leading the Lionesses series on his journey as a former captain with the Women of England – from starting a footballing career at a young age to revealing how the game has evolved from his days to today.
Coultard joined Doncaster Belles aged 13 – after being told she couldn’t play high school football – and got her first England call-up aged 18.
“Joining Doncaster Belles was scary, when you think you’re 13 and taking part in a trial where the women were twice your age and much older,” she said. Sky Sports News.
“For the first two years I was just working my way and trying to figure it all out. I was wondering if this was for me and if I wanted to continue because at 15 and 16 a lot of things happen in your life . . But I just thought no, I want to play football and I want to play professional.”
Coultard became England captain in 1991 and said: “I was told I was going to be made captain which was great. For anyone who captains England let it be winks , regardless, you lead your nation into battle.
“I found it surreal. It’s one of the greatest accolades a player can have.”
She also achieved 119 international caps during her football career, becoming the first woman to reach 100 caps as an amateur in football history.
Asked if she felt a sense of pride in her achievements, she said: “Certainly. I’m a trailblazer and there are trailblazers before me who played for England, like Pat Chapman.
“We all have to start somewhere, and unfortunately everyone says to me, ‘Your time was a little too soon.’ But I paved the way for someone else. My era was something special.”
Leading the Lionesses from 1991 to 2000, Coultard explained his leadership style during those years.
She said: “Really encouraging the players. You’ll always have someone having a bad game and it’s up to you to make sure you try to get back into the game.
“I’d like to think I played like I talked about the game and give one hundred and ten percent.”
Coultard also revealed some of his highlights as England skipper, explaining: “Leading the team. Having that responsibility and being one of the women who led your country.
“The role of England captain has changed over the years from Sheila Parker to Leah Williamson. I think they’re a lot more active now and that’s because they spend a lot more time together as as a team of players.
“But I think Williamson has the same characteristics as me.”
She also believes there have been ‘massive’ changes in women’s football from Coultard’s days to the present day.
“Everything changed,” she said. “It was great when we were taken over by the FA in 1995. It was fantastic. We thought, that’s it, the world is going to be our oyster now.
“It was a case of 10 to 15 years later when you could see the level and development of football changing.”
While the landscape of women’s football has changed over the years, Coultard says she wouldn’t mind captaining the modern England team.
“I have to say yes, of course you did,” she added. “Anyone you talk to would say their time is the best. But if I could put the boots back on, yes of course I would.”
She also revealed her advice to Williamson ahead of the Euros.
“It’s a massive home tournament. There’s added responsibility and pressure. It’s no different to the Men’s Euro. The nation is going to be behind you.
“I just want you to go out there and enjoy the responsibility because it might never happen again.”
Follow Euro 2022 on Sky Sports
Catch up on all the latest Euro 2022 news on Sky Sports and Sky Sports News this summer.
Coverage will be anchored by Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker, alongside Jessica Creighton and Kyle Walker. Meanwhile, Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett will provide analysis throughout the tournament.
They will also be joined by experienced England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.
Pundits and presenters will work from the Sky Sports Women’s Euro 2022 mobile presentation bus, which will follow the Sky Sports News team around the country to the various stadiums where the matches are taking place.
Additionally, Sky Sports’ essential football podcast will be rebranded for the Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast Tournament from June 21. Hosted by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui, it will feature exclusive news and player interviews in addition to a solid tournament programme.
Euro 2022: The groups…
Group A: England, Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland
Group C: Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland
Group D: France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland
Euro 2022: The schedule…
Wednesday July 6
Group A: England v Austria – Kick off 8pm, Old Trafford
Thursday July 7
Group A: Norway v Northern Ireland – kick off 8pm, St Mary’s
Friday July 8
Group B: Spain v Finland – Kick off 5.00pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Germany v Denmark – Kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Saturday July 9
Group C: Portugal vs Switzerland – kick off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Group C: Netherlands v Sweden – kick off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Sunday July 10
Group D: Belgium v Iceland – Kick off 5.00pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Italy – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Monday July 11
Group A: Austria v Northern Ireland – kick off 5pm, St Mary’s
Group A: England v Norway – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
tuesday july 12
Group B: Denmark v Finland – Kick off 5.00pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Germany v Spain – Kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Wednesday July 13
Group C: Sweden v Switzerland – kick off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Netherlands-Portugal – kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Thursday July 14
Group D: Italy v Iceland – Kick off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Belgium – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
friday july 15
Group A: Northern Ireland v England – kick off 8pm St Mary’s
Group A: Austria v Norway – Kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Saturday July 16
Group B: Finland v Germany – Kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Denmark v Spain – Kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Sunday July 17
Group C: Switzerland vs Netherlands – kick off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Sweden v Portugal – kick off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Monday July 18
Group D: Iceland vs France – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Group D: Italy v Belgium – Kick off 8pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Wednesday July 20
Quarter-final 1: Winners Group A v Runners-up Group B – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Thursday July 21
Quarter-Final 2: Group B Winners v Group A Runners-up 8pm, London Community Stadium
friday july 22
Quarter-final 3: Winners Group C v Runners-up Group D – kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Quarter-Final 4: Winners Group D v Runners-up Group C – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
tuesday july 26
Semi-Final 1: Quarter-Final Winners 1 v Quarter-Final Winners 3 – Kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27
Semi-Final 2: Winner Quarter-Final 2 v Winner Quarter-Final 4 – Kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Sunday July 31
Winners Semi-Final 1 v Winners Semi-Final 2 – Kick-off 5pm, Wembley