England forward Rachel Daly is convinced Team GB’s footballers will get a medal at this summer’s Olympics despite tough competition.
The winger is fighting for a place in Hege Riise’s 18-person squad to go to Tokyo and is currently with England for the friendlies against France and Canada.
“100 per cent. There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll definitely get a medal,” Daly told The Women’s Football Show.
“This is the goal. I’ve wanted to play in a World Cup, I’ve wanted to play in the Olympics my whole life. This is something I’ve pushed for since I was kicking a ball at two years old. I’ll give my all, hopefully end up in the squad to go on and win the whole thing.”
It’s been an odd year for Daly. She was in Texas when the coronavirus pandemic hit last March, with doubts surrounding whether a domestic season with her club Houston Dash would be possible.
The Women’s Football Show
Friday 9th April 6:00pm
The NWSL managed to pull off the impressive feat of being the first professional league in the US to return when it staged the Challenge Cup in June, a tournament Houston went on to win.
Daly moved to West Ham on loan in September, turning down offers from clubs at the top of WSL in order to get as much game time as possible.
“In my mind during the Challenge Cup with Houston I was thinking, ‘what’s next?’ I couldn’t go from August until right now not playing a game,” she said. “I wouldn’t be playing for England, I wouldn’t be hitting the peak of my career, I wouldn’t be able to contest for major tournaments.
“I had conversations with multiple clubs in WSL but for me you could argue going to Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Man United would be a great experience but they’ve been building for years and have their squads set.
“For someone to come in for six months could be a disturbance to the team so I want to go to a club that needed me. At the time it felt right, West Ham needed a forward and there was no better time for me to come in.”
Daly left West Ham during the winter break, but during her time with the club, head coach Matt Beard was replaced by Oli Harder and results fluctuated. West Ham are now involved in one of the tightest relegations battles in the league’s history.
“It was an interesting time,” Daly added. “Matt Beard left, [and] right as I was leaving the new manager came in. His vision seems really good and his plans for the future are excellent. I’m sure everyone at the club is disappointed where they are and where they could finish but it’s got support, backing, the facilities are fantastic and I hope they can get out of it.”
Daly’s time at West Ham was her first spell in British football for eight years and she admits she was exceptionally impressed by what she came home too, even if it came at a personal cost.
“The WSL has improved no end,” she said. “I haven’t been a part of it for a long time but you can’t experience what it’s like until you play in it and the first game I played in we lost 9-1 to Arsenal. I have not lost 9-1 since I was about nine so it was quite a shock.
“There are some unbelievable players, it’s arguably one of the biggest leagues in the world. The WSL has improved a ridiculous amount and is a league I’d definitely consider being a part of in the future.”
The highlight of 2020 for Daly was leading Houston Dash to success in the Challenge Cup, as she picked up the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, while enduring bubble life for four weeks in Utah.
“Being in a bubble surrounded by the same people for four weeks was a nightmare,” Daly recalled.
“It’s not like the World Cup where you can get out for a walk; we were stuck in a hotel unable to eat out. We were literally confined to the four walls in your room, it was hard, there’s no denying it.
“For me, we were suffering in there but the rest of the world was suffering on a larger scale. We were the first league to start doing any sport so we asked, ‘what could we do on a daily basis to bring happiness to others’ lives?’
“We used that, we wanted to put on a show, we had nothing to lose and ended up having a really good time. It was an experience I never want to experience again but we won and it set us apart from the rest.”
Houston went from perennial underachievers to a club with fresh hope, something that inspired Daly to sign a new three-year contract after initially having doubts about her future.
“We’ve always fallen short,” she said. “Up until last year I was almost ready to leave, I thought my time was done, maybe it got a bit stagnant.
“I love the club, I love the fans but we hadn’t won anything and it was frustrating, I want to win. I hate losing, I hate being second. I thought I’d taken it as far as I could.”
Houston’s new season kicks off on Friday against Chicago Red Stars and Daly hopes she can bring more success to the city she now calls home.
Her ambitions for the season, however, don’t just extend to domestic honours. She wants 2021 to be the year of her career.
“Be in the Olympics, win the Olympics and then win the season with the Houston Dash,” Daly added.
“It’s less about individual awards, it’s how can I help GB and Houston and look back and say ‘yeah, I nailed it’. I just want to look back and know I’ve given absolutely everything with no regrets and get a few trophies in the cabinet.”
You can see the full interview with Rachel Daly on The Women’s Football Show on Friday at 6pm on Sky Sports Football.