“Before I hit it, you can see I hit it to the side. Normally I would hit the ball to the wing in that situation, but for some reason no one came to me and, well, it was just. a perfect opportunity to hit it.”
Georgia Stanway’s eyes light up when asked about England’s long-range win over Spain in the Euro 2022 quarter-finals in July.
Stanway started all six of the Lions’ games as they won the tournament – playing a key role in England’s midfield alongside his former Manchester City team-mate Keira Walsh.
But with less than two weeks to go before England’s opening match, coach Sarina Wiegman was in a quandary. Stanway had not been regularly selected in central midfield for City and the Lionesses boss was unsure if the 23-year-old would fit in his preferred position.
“We played the Euro warm-up game against the Netherlands and Sarina came to me the day before and said she wasn’t quite sure where I was going to come in,” Stanway told BBC Sport. “After that conversation, there was only one result for me: do everything I can to prove what I can offer.”
Stanway made an impact off the bench against the Dutch, but it was in Switzerland in England’s final warm-up game that he convinced Wiegman to start in their Euro game against Austria at Old Trafford six days later.
“I was able to play in midfield in Switzerland and, well, I had a really good game,” says Stanway. “I knew I left everything out there and Sarina thanked me for trusting me. But if I’m honest, I think I bring a different dynamic to that midfield.”
“I staged in the city”
Stanway credits Wiegman with transforming England’s mentality, shifting their mental focus away from their opponents and onto themselves.
“Sarina has taught us that in championship football, we have to trust the process,” he says. “With him, we concentrate so much on the next game, he would never let anyone look ahead. To be honest, it was only after the semi-final that we thought ‘hang on, we can do this’.”
It’s been a whirlwind few months for Stanway. He made the decision to join Bayern Munich before the Euros after things went wrong at City.
“I was at City for seven, almost eight years, from 16 to 23,” he says. “I played almost 200 games, won seven caps and left as the club’s all-time top scorer. But in the last 18 months I felt like I had plateaued.
“I was being asked to fill different positions, like left-back. And while I’m happy doing a job, I didn’t feel like I was improving or going anywhere.
“I was offered a contract very, very late and it wasn’t the way I wanted it to end. So I questioned myself and thought, ‘Well, if not now, when? When is the right time to go abroad? When is the right time to take the next step? to give?'”.
“I do the dirty work, and Bayern appreciate that”
His arrival is exciting for the Frauen Bundesliga, but he was always something of a must for Stanway, who has long been fascinated by the German game and believes his combative style of play is perfect.
“Coming through the youth ranks with England, the only team that beat us regularly was Germany, and that stood out to me,” explained Stanway. “So I studied the men’s and women’s teams closely, watching as many games as I could.
“Germany was the team that was afraid to play against the whole world and that fascinated me, I thought why is that? Now I know most of the girls and they are all soft and very loving people, but at the same time why were they perceived as having a hard shell?
“It’s because they play in a way that you don’t want to play against them, and I like it when people don’t want to play against me. So it’s a hard graft, a team that appreciates physicality – and the league – , solidity, but at the same time tactical and matching the technical. To me, that’s pretty amazing.
“So when Bayern approached me, I knew they were the right fit for me. I like to create catalyst moments by winning the ball. They also play nice football but I can do the dirty work here. They really appreciate that side of my game and that really suits me.”
“I want to show the player I can be”
Stanway had other offers but, in just over two months, he has immersed himself in life in Bavaria and has been rewarded with a new set of teammates whose bond extends beyond the pitch.
“It’s culture and togetherness, it’s a real family feeling,” he says. “They don’t sign good players, but good people.
“I’m here as a footballer, but also to improve my life. Throwing myself into a new culture, being rich in life and experience, language, food, a different environment, it’s great and really opens my eyes. .”
One of the expected aspects of Stanway’s arrival at Bayern is the understanding he can build with Lina Magull.
The Germany international, one of Bayern’s players to have faced Stanway in the Euro final, is the direct line of attack for Bayern – the pair have the potential to become the pulse of the team.
“Obviously, I love playing with Lina,” Stanway says. “We both like to pass the ball and keep it, share it and I think that’s how we bounce off each other.”
One of Bayern’s key tests in the coming weeks will be their Champions League encounter with last season’s beaten finalists Barcelona at the Nou Camp on November 24.
Stanway will be reunited with his lion friends, Walsh and Lucy Bronze. The three were long-time teammates at City, with Walsh and Bronze moving to Catalonia this summer.
“It’s going to be great to see them in their colors,” says Stanway. “It’s going to be weird with Keira – the only good thing is that I’ll be a little bit deeper and she’ll be a little bit deeper. If I was taller, I’m sure we’d have some little moments. Laughter in the game.”
As well as Wiegman’s influence on him, Stanway believes that joining Bayern before the Euros had an impact on his performance at the tournament, and he believes he is now in an environment that can further nurture his talent.
“I think the reason I did so well in the Euros was because I signed for Bayern, I was free. Now I want to show the player that I am and that I can be the player that I know I can be.”