Banks sensitive to wider picture

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The Independent Online

The flourishing of Angela Banks's football career is particularly gratifying considering the communication barriers she has overcome. Having starred in the Swedish league for four years, the England forward will understand every word Sweden's defenders are saying in this afternoon's Women's European Championship encounter here. But one of the reasons she returned home to Sussex, after rejecting advances to take on dual nationality and play for today's opponents, was a longing to be near her deaf parents.

Banks is playing at the top of her game. She scored for England in the 1-1 draw with Russia on Sunday, following a season in which her 42 goals helped Arsenal win the treble. But her exhilaration is tempered by a sense of perspective. The intensified attachment she enjoys with her family makes her appreciate fully the limelight currently shining her way.

With the women's game in England heading towards professionalism, the demand for Banks's services are only liable to increase but for all her success she recognises there is more to life than football. Today, however, such rationalism will not dampen her desire to put one over on old friends and enhance England's chances of qualifying from Group A for next week's semi-finals.

That would give her parents, Mary and Christopher, some more good news to read about back home in Newhaven. "That's the hard thing, not being able to ring them," she said. "I sent my dad a fax to wish him a happy Fathers' Day. Usually, I have to hope my brother Gary is in but since he's 21 and never at home, that's hopeless.

"Football is something I'm great at now, but after 28 I might consider slowing down. If the game goes pro and someone says to me: 'Here's a three-year contract', I might say 'Oh alright'. But I can't see it."

Banks, who is a full-time employee at Arsenal, with coaching and administration duties alongside her playing role, averaged over 40 goals a season with Surahammar, the Stockholm side, and, briefly, Jitex until she came home in 1998. "When I was over there, my club coach in Gothenburg suggested I take out dual nationality and play for Sweden," she said. "I was flattered but I didn't consider it."

With Kelly Smith still struggling with ankle injuries, she may well figure as a lone striker against Sweden tonight. She intends to use her inside knowledge to full advantage.

"There will be a benefit because if I hear them shouting out tactical changes, I might be able to pass them on," she said. "And if they start a slagging match, I'll soon tell our girls what is being said."

ENGLAND (probable, 4-5-1): P Cope (Charlton Athletic); D Murphy (University of Florida), M Marley (Everton), K Chapman (Fulham), R Unitt (Everton); K Burke (Doncaster Belles), R Easton (Doncaster Belles), S Britton (Everton), T Proctor (Charlton Athletic), S Smith (Tranmere Rovers); A Banks (Arsenal).

SWEDEN (possible, 4-4-2): C Jonsson (Malmo); H Marklund (Umea), K Westberg (Malmo), J Tornqvist (Alvsjo), K Bengtsson (San Diego Spirit); T Nordlund (Umea), M Mostrom (Umea), M Andersson (Malmo), V Svensson (Alvsjo); E Flyborg (Djurgardens), H Ljunberg (Umea).

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