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Grace Clinton's impressive England debut: 'She plays like a natural'

Grace Clinton's impressive England debut: 'She plays like a natural'

  • Written by Emma Sanders
  • BBC Sport at Nuevo Mirador Stadium

Image source, Getty Images

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Grace Clinton came through Everton's academy before joining Manchester United and having successful loan spells at Bristol City and Tottenham.

Grace Clinton's debut in England couldn't have gone much better.

The 20-year-old has caught the eye this season while on loan to Tottenham from Manchester United and wasted no time impressing Wegman in Spain.

Playing in the unfamiliar eighth position, Clinton did not look out of place alongside England midfielders Georgia Stanway and Ella Toone.

By the time she was substituted in the second half – where she received a warm hug from Wegman before taking her seat on the field – she had demonstrated a convincing array of her skills and will certainly get another chance to do so again soon.

England coach Wegman said afterwards: “She plays naturally. She wants to have the ball. She picks up the things we talk about very quickly, and that's what you see on the pitch as well.”

“It was a new role for her, so we did some tactics and some individual things and you can tell she's taking matters into her own hands. She just goes out and plays.”

“You work hard for these moments.”

Sitting in the stands at Nuevo Mirador, a 7,200-seat stadium on Algeciras, a reasonable distance from the England Hotel in Marbella, were Clinton's mother and father, who had flown in hoping to see her make her debut at senior level.

Clinton is one of many youngsters who have broken into the first team under Wegman, and on Friday proved an example for the under-23 players joining the Lionesses in Spain.

“I can't even describe it to be honest, it's an amazing feeling. I found out on Thursday night [I was starting]Clinton said.

“Throughout the week, you might have thoughts and things, but I couldn't believe it. It's surreal but you work hard to have these moments so you really have to embrace them.”

video caption,

England 7-2 Austria: Jess Carter scores with a great backheel

Clinton said she “can't wait” to “see how her parents react,” but joked that she expects a “tough” debrief from her father about what she can still improve.

Clinton added: “My father knows football, so he will talk to me appropriately and I will be there for a while.”

Clinton, who played alongside Stanway, who impressed in the midfield position against Austria, and his United team-mate Toon, said she felt “really comfortable”.

Clinton added: “The girls were very supportive of me. It was nice to play with Toni because I know her well and Georgia was really helping me, and she was very comfortable.”

“Position No. 8 this season is a bit new for me. Sarina told me at the beginning of the week that she was trying new things, so being there is different, but nice.”

“It's exciting that she still has a lot to work on.”

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Sarina Wegman congratulated Grace Clinton when she came out in the second half

Manchester City defender Alex Greenwood, who captained England on Friday, hopes that many other youngsters can follow in Clinton's footsteps and leave a good impression on the main stage.

“This week we had the Under-23s with us, so to see that happen will be an incentive for them to know they can have a chance in the future,” Greenwood said.

“Obviously we're really proud of Grace because she took her chance and scored herself a goal.

“She's great. She's actually really mature for her age and obviously a fellow Scouser as well, so it's always good to have another one at camp.”

With four goals and two assists in 13 appearances for Tottenham, Clinton has produced an outstanding performance in the Women's Super League, but Greenwood believes there is still more to come.

“She's a great kid, really energetic, wants to learn and always asks questions, which is what I love about her,” Greenwood said. “She takes criticism well and wants to improve.”

“I think she's a really good midfielder on the ball and makes good passes into the box. She's an intelligent footballer and it's exciting that she still has a lot to work on actually.”

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