Women's football: Forward thinking for Eniola Aluko

After 10 years England striker welcomes change in emphasis under new manager with attacking intent replacing caution,  as she explains to Robin Scott-Elliot

This afternoon, all being well, Eniola Aluko will collect her 80th cap for England against Montenegro. Her next should follow against Ukraine on Tuesday and, all still being well, England will have taken a convincing step towards next year’s World Cup finals.

Next Sunday she will be in action for her club, Chelsea, in their season-opening fixture at Staines Town. Not far away, given one more favourable selection, her brother Sone will run out at Wembley to play for Hull City in the FA Cup semi-final. Not your straightforward week for the Aluko family then.

It will be the biggest moment of her younger brother’s career, another notable achievement for her and all a long way from playing together at Broadmeadow primary school in Birmingham.

“We played for one year together at junior school – it was really nice to play in the same team but after that I went off to play in a girls’ team and he went to a boys’ team,” says Aluko. “When he can he comes [to watch me] and I go and watch him when he plays in London. It’s nice to watch him play at the top level, in the Premier League.”

Aluko, 27, has been playing at the top level for a decade, having made her England debut aged 17 and then juggled her first European Championship finals with her A levels. For nine of those years she played under Hope Powell’s management, a time of significant progress but a tenure that finally ran out of steam at last year’s Euros, when England failed to win a match.

Sone Aluko hopes to be picked for Hull City in the FA Cup semi-final, the biggest match of his career Sone Aluko hopes to be picked for Hull City in the FA Cup semi-final, the biggest match of his career (Getty Images)
Powell was replaced by Mark Sampson, formerly in charge of the overachieving Bristol Academy side and once a coach under Roberto Martinez at Swansea. Powell’s achievements in the women’s game remain notable but, after 15 years in the role, there was a need to freshen up England’s approach and Sampson, according to Aluko, has already done that.

As befits someone who served his coaching apprenticeship under Martinez there is an emphasis on looking forward, something not always the case under Powell.

“The difference is in his philosophy,” says Aluko. “[It] is very much about taking risks, doing things differently and attacking with freedom. Under Hope we became a very difficult team to beat but the focus wasn’t necessarily around attacking and, as an attacker, obviously it is nice to have training sessions that have an attacking focus and a focus on pushing forward and trying to win games. That has been the difference so far.

“Off the pitch it’s a youthful, vibrant environment. Everyone is buying into what Mark is trying to do. That’s why we are here as players. Essentially, it is about risk and reward and going forward.”

England have won four out of four in qualifying so far, averaging five goals a game, and have yet to concede. They face Montenegro this afternoon in Brighton – live on BBC 2 – and then Ukraine, their main rivals in the group, in Shrewsbury on Tuesday.

Two wins are expected, but they reached the final of the Cyprus Cup – Sampson’s first tournament – last month only to fail to defend the trophy they won last year, losing to France. However, Aluko believes England are closing on the world’s leading sides.

“In terms of player to player we have a lot of talent in this team, perhaps more so than other teams,” she says. “I think the difference with the other teams is they have made a habit of winning and that’s infectious. That’s something for both England’s men’s and women’s football teams that’s not necessarily been our history – we have not made a habit of winning.

“We have got so far – we’ve got to quarter-finals where we get knocked out [England reached the last eight of the last two World Cups]. Teams like Germany, Sweden, Japan are always in and around the finals because they have made a habit of it.

“For us it is not so much fearing the individuals in those teams, it’s having that winning mentality, that mentality that gets you into situations where you are getting to semi-finals and finals.”

News
people'Interview of the year' no letdown
Sport
Wayne Rooney
sportBut which sporting Brit beats him to top spot in Sunday Times Rich List?
News
Maxine Peake at home in front of a poster for Keeping Rosy
people
Arts and Entertainment
Boys in blue: Peter Firth and (right) Kit Harington in Spooks
filmHow well will Spooks make the leap from the small to the big screen?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Royal fans covered with Union Jacks and royal memorabilia wait for Kate, Duchess of Cambridge to go into the Lindo wing at St Mary's Hospital to give birth to her second child in London, Friday, April 24, 2015.
peopleLive updates in the wait for Duchess of Cambridge's second child
Sport
Arsène Wenger (left) and Jose Mourinho have to be separated by the fourth official, Jon Moss, during last October’s Premier League match at Stamford Bridge
football
Arts and Entertainment
Tate Modern chief Chris Dercon, who will be leaving to run a Berlin theatre company
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Tasos: 'I rarely refuse an offer to be photographed'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road