England can recreate Euros buzz of last summer, says Nikita Parris
Nikita Parris has said the Lionesses need to leave the pitch “with no regrets” during the European Championship if they are to pull fans behind the team and reignite the buzz created by the England men’s team last summer.
“England fans and English culture loves football,” Parris said. “As long as we produce good football, they’ll always get behind us. The main thing is that we put ourselves out there and put our best foot forward in each and every game. We need to leave with no regrets. You can’t always get the performance that you want but you can always endeavour to give the best version of yourself and make sure that you leave everything out there.”
The Lionesses are familiar with playing in the biggest grounds in front of sold-out crowds, but last Friday night against the Netherlands, in an 8pm kick-off which mirrored the timing of their three group games, they experienced a buzz reminiscent of that around the men’s team last year. A powerful second-half performance saw England score four after Lucy Bronze had cancelled out Lieke Martens’s opener.
“It was definitely spine-tingling for all of us,” said Parris, speaking from England’s training camp in Basel. “At the end of the game we were in a huddle and Sarina [Wiegman] is trying to talk but we can’t hear her and in the end everyone is just singing Sweet Caroline. It’s just great and jubilant and that’s the kind of atmosphere we want to create. It was a good start.
“They’re the moments in any tournament that create lasting memories and hopefully we can go forward and inspire a generation. Ultimately, we want this tournament to be impactful long term.”
The fans, she said, can be hugely impactful. “Once the Netherlands missed their penalty, straight away we go and score. After that, I don’t think the Netherlands could have got back in the game in part because of the atmosphere. It’s not easy being on the flip side – it’s very daunting.”
The 28-year-old remembers well what it is like to be on the other side, having been on the bench for the Netherlands’ 3-0 semi-final defeat of England in Enschede at Euro 2017.
During that tournament, an orange sea of fans marched to each of the hosts’ games and dominated the sold-out crowds.
“That feeling of looking up and seeing a sea of orange, it’s very different,” Parris said. “Hopefully they look up and see a sea of red and white England flags going. Ultimately the crowd does make a difference. When you’re down in games it gives you an extra energy to get back into games. Against the Netherlands it was a true example of how resilient this team is.”
Part of that comeback was down to the changes Wiegman made, with Parris one of those to come off the bench and stretch the Netherlands. “Tactically and strategy-wise, when you’re coming into the game you know exactly what you need to do to perform, to help the team be better,” Parris said. “That clarity helps any player and you’ve seen in games how we make substitutions that change the games.
“[Wiegman is] ruthless. It’s a winning mentality. Even when we get a performance it’s: ‘How can that performance be better?’ Whether it’s 2%, 10%, 15%, it’s always about where we can improve.”