Arsenal's Ngunga gunning for England spot
PUBLISHED: 12:30 02 August 2017
It's not every day you get to receive words of advice from the England women's football manager at a major tournament.
But having done just that, one of Arsenal’s youngsters insists it has only made her more motivated than ever to one day try and be a part of the senior Lionesses set up herself.
Jess Ngunga, 16, was one of five aspiring young athletes who travelled to the Netherlands this week to watch both the England and Scotland camps train ahead of their opening Women’s European Championships clash in Utrecht on Wednesday.
The opportunity came about due to Ngugna being selected this year as an SSE Next Generation athlete – a programme that supports 50 young athletes who have been identified as stars of the future.
The striker is already a part of the England Under-17s set up herself but admitted the chance to see at first hand how the seniors prepare and perform under pressure – plus talk with manager Mark Sampson – had been a real eye opener.
“The best bit was watching England train before the match and meeting Mark Sampson and assistant coach Gemma Grainger,” said Ngunga, after watching England beat Scotland comprehensively 6-0.
“Mark has come to watch our training session with England Under-17s before so he recognised me and it was good to talk with him directly.
“It was also good getting a feel for their senior team’s routines and how they go about their business in tournament mode and how they interact with each other as one day I want to be a part of the team.
“They played really well against Scotland. It was a really good atmosphere and you could tell they were well prepared.”
Ngunga’s trip to the Netherlands also saw her receive media training, experience a meet and greet with former SSE Next Generation athlete and Manchester City star Georgia Stanway, and the chance to explore Amsterdam.
Last season she balanced studying for her GCSEs with playing for Arsenal – where she has started appearing for the reserve team – and also the England Under-17 outfit, including in the UEFA European Women’s Under-17 Championships.
And she revealed she has big plans for next season already.
“I’m going to still play with the reserves next year but see if I can train with the first team and show what I can do,” she added.
“I’ve spoken with the reserves manager Kelly Smith quite a lot and she said she was impressed with how I had gone from the Under-17s straight into the reserves quite easily last season. So I want to keep trying to impress her.
“We have our induction on August 1 and then we will start doing pre-season and getting ready.”
*Since 2013, SSE is proud to make a difference to young people, their families and their communities, by investing in the future of sporting talent through the SSE Next Generation scheme. Keep up to date @YourSSE.