England’s Carly Telford is excited about helping to bring the next generation of goalkeepers through, despite getting some stick for her age in the process.
The 33-year-old is the most-experienced shot-stopper in Phil Neville’s latest squad, alongside 21-year-old Ellie Roebuck, 22-year-old Sandy MacIver and 19-year-old Hannah Hampton.
“I’m now officially the grandma of the group!” she said, laughing.
For a long time, Telford was part of a goalkeeping union with England all of similar experience and age, but now her role has changed.
“We've been able to develop, over the past few years, an amazing group of young goalkeepers. I think my role is to keep driving the standards and setting the Lioness standards that I've always held,” she explained.
“It's helping them understand what it's like to be a Lioness goalkeeper - how we play, how we train, how we act - but they're all professional, it's nothing different that they do at clubs.
“It's trying to make them understand, as well, what got them here. They don't have to try and do anything different than just be who they are.
“[My job is] making sure that I'm still ahead of them, just a little bit, but also making sure that if for whatever reason I'm not available or I don't get selected, that I leave the next group of goalkeepers in the best possible way so that we help and we make England successful.
“That's my job: to help this team win. Whether that's right now at this present time, over the next few tournaments, or whether that's in the future.
“Don't worry, they're not shy in reminding me how old I am! But I can still keep up with them just about.
“It's my first couple of camps in a row where I've worked with this group and they just love it. They're so enthusiastic.
“I'm just very lucky. It's an absolute honour to be here and work with them, making sure they're pushing my standards as well as I'm pushing them."
Manchester City’s Roebuck already has a handful of caps under her belt, but MacIver and Hampton could be in line for international debuts next week when England fly to Wiesbaden to take on Germany.
MacIver has impressed with Everton since she returned to England from college in the United States, touted by the Toffees’ manager, Willie Kirk, to be her country’s future No.1.
Hampton, meanwhile, has been playing regularly for Birmingham since she was 17 years old and boasts particularly impressive technical skills, having spent five years in Spain where she was part of Villarreal’s academy.
Asked what has impressed her the most about the uncapped duo, Telford said: “Probably their attitudes. What I love about them is they're not afraid to ask me questions. I love that because it's them trusting me and believing in how I work, but also, they're not scared to ask me how I work, which is a compliment.
“They have no fear. I think that's the best thing that I've seen, they're just not afraid to be here and they're just so excited to be here.”
One of the reasons for such an exciting crop of young goalkeepers in this England set-up is down to the way the game has progressed in recent years, with Telford admitting she didn’t have a full-time goalkeeping coach to work with her until she joined Chelsea.
“That's where the improvements have come,” she said. “Sandy, Ellie and Hannah have got the pleasure of doing that at a much younger age, so you'll see improvements at a much faster rate, but that's where the game is going now.
“It's not jealousy, because I think it excites me, because I'm at their level still just, I'm just a little bit older.
“When I retire as well, the exciting thing for me is the opportunities to go back into the game and make sure that this level keeps being pushed, so that we do have the best goalkeeping unit in Europe and in the world, and that we help this team win, whether that is now or in the future.”