Leading the Lionesses: Coultard on becoming England captain in 1991

Former England captain Gill Coultard tells Sky Sports News’ Leading the Lionesses series about her journey as a former captain with England Women – from starting a football career at a young age to revealing how the game has changed from her era to now.

Coultard joined Doncaster Belles at 13 years old – having previously been told that she couldn’t play football at grammar school – and received her first England call up at 18.

“Joining Doncaster Belles was scary, when you think being 13 years of age and going into a trial where women were double your age and a lot older,” she told Sky Sports News.

“For the first couple of years I was just working my way and trying to understand everything. Working out if it was for me and if I wanted to continue, because at the age of 15 and 16 a lot of things come along 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 anybody to captain England, whether it be tiddlywinks, it doesn’t matter, you’re leading your nation out to battle.

“I found it surreal. It’s one of the biggest 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.

Gillian Coultard shows off some of the memorabilia from her football career
Image: Gillian Coultard shows off some of the memorabilia from her football career

When asked if she felt a sense of pride with her achievements, she said: “Definitely. I’m a pioneer and there are pioneers before me who played for England, like Pat Chapman.

“We have all got to start off from somewhere, and unfortunately everybody says to me ‘Your time was a little bit too early.’ But I have paved the way for somebody else. My era was something special.”

Leading the Lionesses from 1991 to 2000, Coultard explained her leadership style during these years.

She said: “Encouraging players really. You’re always going to have somebody who has a bad game and it’s up to you to make sure that you try and get back into the game.

“I would like to think that I have played the way I have talked about the game and give one hundred and ten percent.”

Coultard also revealed some of her highlights as England skipper, explaining: “Leading the team out. Having that responsibility and being one of the women that captained your country.

Gillian Coultard offered her advice for current England Women captain Leah Williamson
Image: Gillian Coultard offered her advice for current England Women captain Leah Williamson

“The role of England captain has changed over the years from Sheila Parker through to Leah Williamson. I think they are a lot more hands on now and that’s because they spend a lot more time together as a squad of players.

“But I think Williamson has got the same characteristics that I had.”

She also believes that there has been “massive” changes in the women’s game from Coultard’s era to now.

“Everything has changed,” she said. “It was great when we got took over by the FA in 1995. That 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 after 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 that she wouldn’t mind captaining the modern England side.

“I’ve got to say yes, of course you have,” she added. “Anybody you speak to would say their era is the best. But if I could get the boots back on, yes of course I would.”

She also revealed her advice to Williamson ahead of the Euros.

“It’s a massive tournament being on home soil. There’s extra responsibility and pressure. It’s no different to the men’s Euros. The nation is going to be behind you.

“I just want you to go out there and enjoy the responsibility because that might never come again.”

Follow Euro 2022 across Sky Sports

Keep up with all the latest from Euro 2022 across 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 give analysis throughout the tournament.

They will also be joined by experienced England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.

The 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 matches are being played.

In addition, Sky Sports’ Essential Football Podcast will be rebranded for the tournament to Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast rom 21 June. Hosted by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui, it will feature exclusive news and player interviews in addition to a strong programme line up around the tournament.

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…

Group stage

Wednesday July 6

Group A: England vs Austria – kick off 8pm, Old Trafford

Thursday July 7

Group A: Norway vs Northern Ireland – kick off 8pm, St Mary’s

Friday July 8

Group B: Spain vs Finland – kick off 5pm, Stadium MK

Group B: Germany vs Denmark – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium

Saturday July 9

Group C: Portugal vs Switzerland – kick off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village

Group C: Netherlands vs Sweden – kick off 8pm, Bramall Lane

Sunday July 10

Group D: Belgium vs Iceland – kick off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium

Group D: France vs Italy – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium

Monday July 11

Group A: Austria vs 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 vs Finland – kick off 5pm, Stadium MK

Group B: Germany vs Spain – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium

Wednesday July 13

Group C: Sweden vs Switzerland – kick off 5pm, Bramall Lane

Group C: Netherlands v Portugal – kick off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village

Thursday July 14

Group D: Italy vs 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 vs Norway – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium

Saturday July 16

Group B: Finland vs Germany – kick off 8pm, Stadium MK

Group B: Denmark vs Spain – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium

Sunday July 17

Group C: Switzerland vs Netherlands – kick off 5pm, Bramall Lane

Group C: Sweden vs Portugal – kick off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village

Monday July 18

Group D: Iceland vs France – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium

Group D: Italy vs Belgium – kick off 8pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium

Knockout phase

Quarter-finals

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: Winners Group B v Runners-up Group A – kick off 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

Semi-finals

Tuesday July 26

Semi-final 1: Winners quarter-final 1 v Winners quarter-final 3 – kick off 8pm, Bramall Lane

Wednesday July 27

Semi-final 2: Winners quarter-final 2 v Winners quarter-final 4 – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK

Final

Sunday July 31

Winners semi-final 1 v Winners semi-final 2 – kick off 5pm, Wembley

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