Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps admits she thought her international career was over before earning an England recall.
New Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman called Earps into her first squad for the World Cup qualifiers against North Macedonia and Luxembourg.
If Earps gets the nod between the posts for the North Macedonia clash at St Mary’s on Friday night, she will collect her ninth senior cap – some 678 days on from her eighth.
The 28-year-old has started the new Women’s Super League season well for United but she was still a little surprised to be welcomed in from the cold at international level.
“It feels pretty great, to be honest, obviously I’m really chuffed to be back in with the girls,” she said.
“So, hopefully, I can just enjoy it and enjoy playing my football and see what happens going forwards.
“I was very much sort of thinking, ‘Yeah, this is probably internationally the end of the road for me’, I was quite open and honest about that.
“I think my focus obviously, has been United for the last couple of years…to be honest, to be back is a bit surreal and I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity.
“I just want to enjoy it – it’s a hugely personal sort of comeback if you like, there’s not many people who witness what happened and everything that kind of came with that.
“I’m very proud and I’m delighted to be honest. So we’ll just see what happens. But for now, I’m really happy to be here and help the team in whatever capacity that that may be and, yeah, I’m chuffed.”
Earps revealed she was going about her daily life when the news came that she had been included in Wiegman’s maiden squad, before she was given some pointers by her parents.
“It was a bit mad, really, because I’d come back from training and I was probably preparing my dinner to be honest,” she said.
“I got this email, thinking about what I was going to do in the evening – I was probably going to get some curtain poles from John Lewis or something like that – I got this email.
“I was like ‘Oh, oh, OK’. Just a bit like…I rang my mum and dad straight away and they were obviously delighted and then my dad just told me a few things that I should have done better at the weekend in the game before.
“They know the challenges that I faced and obviously they’ve been through everything with me, so yeah, they were just really happy for me.“I rang my coach and he was like, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard you speechless’. I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds about right’.”
Wiegman named her first squad last week and met the players for the first time earlier this week, having been appointed as the new England boss last year.
She won the Euros with her native Holland in 2017 and has now been tasked with bringing similar glory to England.
Earps has not had much interaction with Wiegman as of yet but is looking forward to learning what the 51-year-old has to offer.
“I met Sarina, obviously, over the last couple of days and she’s been really welcoming,” she added.
“We’ve had a couple of meetings and interactions with us so far and she seems really switched on with a football, the way she articulates herself and carries herself, she seems really intelligent.
“So for me, I can’t wait to work with her hopefully as much as possible and just really learn from her because her reputation is brilliant.
“With that kind of wealth of experience in the game and the success that she’s had I’ll be looking to learn as much as I possibly can and I think she can have a really great influence on the team, and the players we’ve got here.”
After her Wembley unveiling last week, Wiegman said she had yet to decide on a long-term captain – but previous skipper Steph Houghton revealed on Tuesday she will continue to wear the armband for the two upcoming fixtures.
“Me and Sarina had a really good conversation last night and fortunately I am the captain for the next couple of games,” she told Sky Sports News.
“It is amazing because it’s an absolute honour to be England captain but we are realistic in the fact that she’s getting to know the group, she’s getting to know how we work as a team and just getting to know everybody.
“For me personally it’s an unbelievable honour to be able to do that over the next couple of games and lead the team that I normally have done over the last few seasons and years.
“But regardless of whether I have an armband or not I’ll still be the same leader that I’ve always been for the girls and we’re just really looking forward to working underneath her and hopefully learn a lot more about my game and for the team as well.”