Rachel not hanging up the gloves just yet as she aims for a third World Cup
Rachel Brown-Finnis isn’t planning on hanging her gloves up any time soon.
The Burnley-born Everton and England goalkeeper may be preparing for life after her playing career comes to an end, but she insists the fire is still burning within.
The 33-year-old has won 82 caps for her country, going to four European Championships, two World Cups, the Olympic Games, and been named a FIFA Allstar in 2007.
However, with England on track for the Canada 2015 World Cup, heading group six by nine points after a 100% start to qualifying, Brown-Finnis is hungry to add to an already distinguished career.
Advances in sports science mean players can play on well into their 30s, and Rachel has no intention of stopping just yet - despite looking at the coaching side of things, having recently completed Level 2 outfield and goalkeeping badges: “I’ll play on until I’m not enjoying it any more. A lot of people have said to me ‘you’re a long time retired’ and that has resonated with me.
“We don’t play for financial reward, it’s because we love the game, love being part of a team and keeping fit.
“You’re thinking you have another 60 years or so of life without football hopefully, and there is the chance to go to another World Cup.
“But while I’m feeling good, as I am at the moment, and I can balance my personal life, my work and football, and I’m enjoying it, I don’t want to give myself a shelf-life.
“You could lose motivation if you say you’re going to retire at a certain time, and I wouldn’t want my teammates to have that doubt.”
She has a battle on her hands to oust current England number one Karen Bardsley, but would love to move towards a century of caps.
Regardless of whether she reaches that milestone or not, an 18-year-involvement with the national side is something to be proud of: “It would be amazing if I could get to 100 caps, a few girls have had that milestone, and the target is more available that it has been in the past due to qualifying for the major championships and playing more games.
“It’s not recognised as such, but I’m very proud to have been in and around the squad for 18 years, since I was first called up in 1995 - it’s a lifetime in sport.
“So whether I get to 100 caps or not, I can reflect on that, and the changes that have happened in women’s football, that I was able to keep up with those, and evolve as a player.”
She has embraced those changes, as she explained: “There is a whole new outlook in the game. When I was 15, I was playing in a cup final and called up for England, but now you have to be 16 to play, so that won’t happen again.
“We didn’t train as much as we do now, or have the professional lifestyles we have.
“Goalkeepers have to adapt their training, you can’t throw yourself around every day and be fine. But if you look at Schwarzer, van der Sar, they would maybe train fully once a week, goalkeeper training, and the rest is on bikes, low intensity work.
“That’s happened at Everton, so your body can cope. I’ve taken up yoga and hot pilates to keep flexible and introduce a lot of strength work.
“I just want to get strong and protect my joints and back, to have that base fitness higher than it has ever been, and prevent any niggles.
“You know what your body needs and what it doesn’t.”
An unused substitute for England’s last three World Cup qualifying wins, she is determined to be ready when the opportunity arises: “I’d be lying if I said I was just happy to be in the England squad, I want to be in the team, I’m not happy to just be on the bench.
“But I understand, I’ve been in that position for England for a few years, where I’ve been the number one, and I’ve been in the position I’m in now before.
“As long as you have respect for people, and they respect you, you remain positive, and when your chance comes, as it will at some point, you have to make sure you are 100% ready.
“It’s good to feel that I’m still trusted to do a steady job in goal when required. I know I have some qualities Karen doesn’t have, and vice versa, and they would have no hesitation in bringing me in if needed.”
To that end, after 14 years under Hope Powell, the squad has a new manager to impress in caretaker Brent Hills: “I think everyone is thinking they are on trial now, and there will be our regular training camp in La Manga in January, where I’m sure the manager will take a big squad and look at as many people as possible. So the next couple of months could be critical for all our international futures, so it’s quite exciting.
“But you can’t worry about that, you just have to have confidence in your ability and prove yourself. It keeps everyone on their toes and it has already had an impact.”