Chelsea Women forward Niamh Charles believes she is in the perfect place to realise her international ambitions.
There’s been little time to draw breath in recent months for the 21-year-old, with a first senior England call-up following a move to the reigning WSL champions.
Charles has represented England at junior level, featuring at the Women’s European Championship and Women’s World Cup at the Under-17 age group before the invite to the senior training camp at St George’s Park earlier this month.
“Getting the call is something that when you’re on the youth pathway you can only dream about,” she told West London Sport.
“It was surreal being on the same team as the top senior players.”
The next challenge is to take the next step and make her senior debut for Phil Neville’s squad.
“Obviously I am very hopeful, but I can’t really control that,” the winger said. “It would be a dream if that happened, but now I can only focus on myself, working hard day-to-day here.
“I am at a brilliant place to push me on to the next level.”
Charles was given a tantalising taste of life at Chelsea with a Wembley debut, coming on as a substitute in the Community Shield win over Manchester City.
And she is well aware of the hard work that lies ahead to establish herself among a squad of superstars.
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“When you look at Chelsea over the last five to 10 years, the way they have grown the women’s game and dominated, it was something I was very excited to become part of,” Charles added.
“It is incredible the calibre of player we have here – every single player is unbelievable. You train at the very highest level and it makes you bring your best every single day.
“The culture of winning here is only going to help me become a better player.”
This weekend, Charles will have a little extra motivation to help Chelsea reach the Women’s FA Cup semi-finals.
She swapped Liverpool for west London in June, but as a lifelong supporter of the red half of Merseyside, there will be a few personal scores to settle when Chelsea travel to Everton for Sunday’s quarter-final tie.
“I have grown up playing in derbies and know what the derby feeling is all about. Playing Everton is always the one you want to win,” she said.
“It’s obviously different now I’m playing for Chelsea, but on a personal level I will still be taking that derby day spirit into the game.”
The Covid-19 pandemic cut short the Women’s Super League season and left unfinished business in the cup, leaving Chelsea the unusual prospect of a big quarter-final knockout just a few weeks into the new campaign.
“Obviously it’s not normal, but there have been a lot of not-normal things lately,” Charles added.
“But with the type of manager Emma is and the team we have, it doesn’t take much to get us up and to know the importance of the occasion.”