Which West Ham players can challenge for a place in the Lionesses’ World Cup squad in 2023?
As the England team’s well-earned celebrations begin to subside following their transformative victory in the Women’s Euros, attention will start to turn towards preparations for next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The WSL is set to be more competitive than ever this coming season and the members of the current England squad will know they will need to be at the top of their game to be sure of their inclusion next time round.
Head Coach Sarina Wiegman‘s strong belief in meritocracy means that nobody is guaranteed of a place in her World Cup squad. The Dutchwoman has proved herself able to make difficult decisions over certain players if she believes it will benefit the team as a whole. Wiegman’s decision to omit the legendary Steph Houghton from the 23-woman squad for the Euros is a case in point and led to her being branded as ruthless in some quarters.
As well as Wiegman’s egalitarianism, opportunities for new additions to England’s squad will open up due to inevitable pre-tournament injury concerns and the uncertain international futures of current players such as 35-year-old Jill Scott.
West Ham’s squad is packed full of young English talent and many of them will be hoping that they can be competing for a place in the England squad during the upcoming WSL season. Those who don’t make the squad may decide to support the team from the stands as midfielder Kate Longhurst did on Sunday night.
So which West Ham players could be included in Sarina Wiegman’s England squad for next summer’s World Cup?
Of all the West Ham players hoping to make the England squad, Grace Fisk is probably the closest to actually doing so. The 24-year-old Bromley-born defender has represented England at under-17, under-19, under-20 and under-21 level. She captained the England team to a third-place finish at the under-20 World Cup in 2018, beating the hosts, France, in the third-place play-off. Fisk received her first senior England call-up in February 2020 when she was included in the squad for the 2020 SheBelieves Cup, however she did not make it on to the pitch.
Fisk played every minute of West Ham’s 2020/21 campaign, where she was an integral part of the team that narrowly avoided relegation from the WSL. Injury limited her to 23 appearances last season, but she still managed to score two goals for the club, including a memorable injury time equaliser against Manchester United in March.
While perhaps not as accomplished as the first-choice defenders currently operating in Wiegman’s England team, Fisk’s greatest strength is her versatility. This could make her an attractive proposition for a place in a tournament squad as she can be trusted to deputise in several positions along the back line.
Often appearing as the right-sided centre back in West Ham’s back three, Lucy Parker was a key member of the team in her debut season at the club. Parker is a graduate of the Arsenal academy and won two FA Youth Cups during her time at the Gunners.
Like many of her peers, the 23-year-old defender played the majority of her early career in the United States where she played for teams such as the LSU Tigers and the UCLA Bruins.
Parker has amassed 22 youth international caps for England from the under-15s to the under-21s where she regularly played with teammate Grace Fisk.
Abbey-Leigh Stringer joined West Ham last summer and was a regular presence in the centre of West Ham’s midfield. The 27-year-old is a dependable operator in the centre of the pitch, dovetailing seamlessly with the more attacking Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Yui Hasegawa.
Stringer has represented England’s various youth teams on 27 occasions, with her most recent appearance coming in 2015. Stringer is just entering what should be her prime years as a player but, an outstanding WSL season aside, is perhaps seen as an unlikely candidate for a place in England’s World Cup squad.
Houssein is a highly rated attacking midfielder who has broken into the West Ham first team at the age of just 17. She scored on her West Ham debut after coming off the bench in the 4-2 defeat by Chelsea in the League Cup quarter-finals.
Houssein initially joined West Ham on a dual-registration basis from Arsenal earlier this year but made her move to East London permanent in June. Her exploits for Arsenal saw her described as “the next Mesut Ozil” by her agent who also represents the German World Cup winner.
Houssein is an England under-19 international and has captained the under-18 side. Next summer’s World Cup may be a tournament too soon for Houssein but she is definitely one to keep an eye on.
West Ham have signed several young English players in this transfer window, all of whom will be hoping to represent their country at senior level in the future. Sopie Hillyerd is a promising young goalkeeper who has recently represented England at under-19 level. Alex Hennessy is a 17-year-old forward who spent last season at Crystal Palace in the Women’s Championship and plays for England under-18s. Brooke Cairns joined West Ham in August 2021 and made a total of three appearances for the club across the 2020/21 campaign. The 18-year-old midfielder has played for England at under-16, under-17 and under-18 level.