HARTLEPOOL’S most decorated footballer today welcomed the news that England will play a women’s international in town this summer.
Lindsay Johnson, capped 41 times by her country, including at a World Cup and European Championships, is “thrilled” Hartlepool United have been picked to host the friendly with Sweden on Sunday, August 3.
It is a huge game for the England side - Sweden are ranked fifth in the world and are sure to present a huge test ahead of the World Cup.
Johnson said: “It’s brilliant.
“I always said there should be more internationals in the North-East.
“Victoria Park is a very good ground and I think it’s a great move by England.
“We should be playing at the smaller grounds – it’s better filling out places like the Vic than playing in big, empty stadiums.
“Pools have a good pitch and I think it wlll be a fabulous occasion.
“It’s brilliant for the town and it will be great for the girls.
“I’d have loved to have played for England in my home town but sadly I’m not involved any more.
“Quite a few of the England girls are from the North-East and our area produces a lot of players so it’s nice the FA have brought the Sweden game to the Vic.”
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England are just one point away from reaching the 2015 World Cup finals, goals by Casey Stoney and Eniola Aluko fired the Three Lions to their eighth straight win - a 2-1 victory in Ukraine this week.
Olha Ovdiychuk’s reply for Ukraine was the first goal Mark Sampson’s team had conceded in 693 minutes of Group Six football.
Sampson has overseen a remarkable transformation of the national side following the dreadful end to the reign of Hope Powell.
“I still see or speak to a lot of the girls,” said Johnson, who recently played for Everton in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
“England have had some brilliant results.
“I think after 13 years it needed a change, freshening up.
“Hope was very successful but I think she needed a change too.
“Mark has taken over and he’s given us a new lease of life.
Sampson said it would be a great occasion for the large number of North-East born players in his squad.
Jill Scott is from Sunderland, Demi Stokes is from South Shields, Lucy Bronze is from Alnwick, while Steph Houghton is from just up the road at South Hetton.
It will be hoped another local girl, Jordan Nobbs, daughter of former Hartlepool United legend, Keith, will have recovered from a back problem to play on the same ground as her dad.
Sampson said: “We’ve got a lot of North-East players in this England squad and they’ve wanted us to play up there for a while.
“They tell me we’ll get a great reception and how vocal the fans are, so we want to put on a good performance in Hartlepool.”
Pools chief executive Russ Green said: “We’re extremely honoured to be hosting another international fixture at Victoria Park.
“The club has been proud to have played host to England U18s in the past and we’re delighted that we’re now going to see a full women’s International game take place here.
“I think it’s great that the Football Association are keen to come back to the Vic and use our facilities once again and, of course, play on one of the best pitches in the country.
“It’s prestigious for the club to be hosting such a fixture so we are hoping that as many Pools fans as possible can come along and support England at the Vic.”
Tickets for England v Sweden are priced at £5 for adults and £2.50 for children and concessions.
A family ticket is available at £10 (two adults and two children) and group booking discounts also apply.
Tickets are available by calling (01429) 272584 (option 2), or on ticketing.thefa.com, at the Hartlepool United ticket office or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.