England midfielder Karen Carney says she will never feel any bitterness over the rewards there may be ahead for younger players in the women’s game, emphasising: “I have lived my dream.”
The 31-year-old, currently at her fourth Women’s World Cup, is second on the Lionesses’ all-time appearances list with 143 caps – winning the latest when she was brought on by Phil Neville in the 2-0 victory over Japan on Wednesday.
In the time since Carney made the first international appearance of her remarkable career, in 2005, English women’s football has been on a journey of considerable growth.
When asked ahead of Sunday’s last-16 clash with Cameroon in Valenciennes if she thought she will be bitter at all about rewards players might get to enjoy in the future, Carney said: “No, because I never had any expectations.
“When I was 11, I just wanted to play for England. I didn’t know when it would happen, how it would happen. I picked that dream and I wanted that dream.
“Since then, I’ve travelled the world. I went to university. I’ve got a degree. I’ve got a masters. I’ve met some amazing people. I’ve lived my dream.
“I’ve picked up so many skill sets. I haven’t made a lot of money but I’m equally comfortable. I have food, clothes on my back and my family. For me, I’ll never be bitter.
“I’ve had some amazing experiences. One of the best was when I picked up my MBE (in 2017). I made my family feel like prince and princesses for the day. If I get that for one day, I’m happy with that.
“I am who I am. I’m from Birmingham, my mum works at Sainsbury’s, my dad is a firefighter. We keep it real. We know who we are. I don’t need a Bentley, I don’t need a Rolex. I’ve lived my dream and I’ve got my family and that’s all I need.”
Carney has been in England’s squad for eight successive major tournaments, helping them finish third at the 2015 World Cup and as runners-up at Euro 2009, and played for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics.
Regarding members of Neville’s 23-player group who are at a World Cup for the first time, she said: “They remind me of myself when I was in that first tournament (Euro 2005).
“Senior pros protected me, looked after me and made me feel amazing and if I can do that for them… I hope I can, that’s the aim for me.
“What I try to tell the youngsters (is): ‘You’ve played in bigger venues, like Wembley – chill, relax, have fun. You’re playing at a World Cup, it’s your dream – don’t fear it, embrace it.’”
Carney came off the bench each time as England won all three of their group games in France, and she said: “I just come on, smile and enjoy the moment.”
The Chelsea player, who has battled with depression in the past, says she is currently “in a good spot.”
When it was put to her that she seemed at ease, Carney said: “Yeah I’d agree. I’m in a good spot – touch wood – and I credit a lot to my managers, Phil and (Chelsea boss) Emma Hayes.
“Obviously my family have helped but I credit my two managers for making me enjoy my football and giving me the responsibility. I am very comfortable in my own skin – it’s took a long process and I’m there finally.”
Last October it emerged Carney had received sickening abuse – messages wishing “cancer, leukaemia and rape” on her – via social media after playing for Chelsea against Fiorentina.
She said: “I spoke out about it because I’ve got an 11, 12-year-old niece. We have a responsibility. The younger generation is so social media focused and if I didn’t act on it then I wouldn’t be doing them justice.
“It’s not OK, you can’t say that, you can’t send things like that. I did it to show an example to her that it’s not OK.”
Carney added: “I don’t think you’ll ever stop it to be honest. Everyone has the freedom and right to feel they can say what they want, even if sometimes it doesn’t mean they should.
“I think I’d like this tournament to be showing we’re playing such good football, we’re inspiring boys and girls, and that’s what is being hopefully spoken about.
“I hope we play attractive football and do the right things and that’s being spoken about more than trolling or negative stuff.”
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