Lucy Bronze has revealed she has been playing through pain on the way to a first major tournament final. When she steps out at Wembley on Sunday, it will be no different for the right-back.
After suffering four bad knee injuries that required surgery by the time she was 18, and that sidelined her for two years, Bronze needed another operation on her right knees last August to remove the fabella bone that was embedded in the tendon behind her knee.
The pain lingers. “I’ve just got to play through it,” the 30-year-old said. “There are plenty of players who are having to play through pain in their career and I’m now one of them.”
In England’s 4-0 Euros semi-final defeat of Sweden, Bronze initially struggled with the threat posed by Fridolina Rolfö and Stina Blackstenius. By the 48th minute she had a goal and an assist, though, and it was hard to tell she was playing through pain.
“Everyone keeps saying that but I don’t feel like I did a couple of years ago,” said the 2020 Fifa Best player of the year. “The Lucy Bronze of a couple of years ago was ‘the best player in the world’. I’m still happy to be contributing to the team, still playing good football, obviously getting an assist for Beth [Mead] and getting her up there to get the Golden Boot. It would be nice to be part of her little individual journey.
“It’s been difficult to come back from a knee injury which has lingered for a very long time and still is now. The goals and assists are not something I consider a major part of my game. I’d much rather the likes of Beth and Ellen [White] and Hempo [Lauren Hemp] get on the scoresheet. I enjoyed it, though. I’d not scored in a Euros.”
In the first half, with England feeling the heat, Bronze could be seen exchanging hurried words with Sarina Wiegman on the touchline. Bronze believes the manager’s influence has “made the difference”.
“It’s just practical information she’s giving. I think that being Dutch, she’s to the point. She tries not to get carried away. It’s quite funny that pretty much everyone in the whole of Holland said they’ve never seen Sarina Wiegman jump around like she did after the Spain game. I think she said herself that the Spanish performance was one of the best she’d ever seen – to come through that was amazing, not just for the team but for her as a manager and coach.”
That practical information was “small details she wants to change”, Bronze said. “A lot of that is her assistant Arjan [Veurink], who she also brought from the Dutch team. I think they must not like us very much because we brought two of their best coaches. Sarina gets the headlines but Arjan’s a tactical genius as well. They’re both very calm, very focused with the information they gave us, and I think that shows in the way that we play.”
Calmness has been key. It has sunk into the fabric of the team from the top down. “In a home Euros there’s a lot of emotion and a lot of support,” Bronze said. “We don’t want to get carried away too much and she’s one of those people that is very process-driven. She’s very excited, but once the game’s done we’re on to the next game. We don’t get carried away with our emotions but on and off the field we still enjoy the game and still enjoy the moment at the right time.”
There is no risk of Bronze, who sat in the hallway on the floor after England’s 8-0 defeat of Norway while the rest of the team went wild in the dressing room, getting carried away before the final. “For players like myself and Ellen and Fran [Kirby] who’ve experienced a lot of semi-final defeats, it’s nice to get over those defeats, get over the line and finally get ourselves in the final. But it’s certainly not job done.”