England's Lionesses kick off their 2019 Women's World Cup campaign on June 9 against Scotland, as they hope to better their third place finish from the last tournament.
Lynne Cameron, the team's official photographer, accompanied the squad throughout their preparations for the competition in France, capturing moments behind the scenes from training camps and the SheBelieves tournament earlier this year - in which England emerged victorious.
Ahead of the Lionesses taking to the pitch at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, Cameron has been kind enough to tell the tales behind the images, in her own words.
Lionesses Qualify for 2019 Women's World Cup
Everyone was desperate to make sure we were in France for the World Cup. The team celebrated on the pitch and there were some lovely pictures of the players with their friends and families and given that it was such a tight ground everyone was that much closer to them.
The crowd were mostly Welsh, but there was a great group of away fans supporting, the girls were elated. We got back into the dressing room, there was a lot of singing and dancing then Phil [Neville] did something that he often does, which is to take a selfie. It’s to help capture a memory for everyone. Phil is selfless. Everything we do, we do as a team.
This picture is of Phil capturing a special moment - the picture was really good so if he ever leaves coaching, I’m sure he could be a photographer!
England Netball Team Pay a Visit (November 2018)
In November, we were very lucky that the England netball team came down to meet the Lionesses. Phil and Tracey are twins and very close and it was a really nice and relaxed afternoon. The girls loved it and both teams shared experiences. There was a lot of similarities and a lot of crossover, they got on so well.
That was until we decided to do some activities and we went into the futsal hall. The netball girls were showing the football girls how to play netball and visa versa. It got super competitive! In this particular picture you can see one of the netball girls trying to shoot a hoop and Leah, Chi, Abi, Nikita and Rach Daly are in the background cheering a miss, because they were in different teams.
It’s always good to get different experiences from different teams, I think everyone was really inspired by the netball girls visit.
England vs Sweden - Steph Houghton’s 100th Cap
It’s special for any player to represent their country but even more so to reach a milestone like this. Steph made her 100th appearance against Sweden. I don’t think anyone can deny the influence that Steph has on the team, she’s an amazing leader and an even better person. She’s very humble and she doesn’t like a fuss.
But, I think it’s important that the occasion is marked because 100 caps is pretty special. Our kit men Neil and Richard are brilliant and created a special 100th cap jersey with Steph’s husband Stephen - and her mum, dad, brother and grandma came out to the pitch to surprise her and present the jersey.
Qatar Training Camp (January 2019)
Phil decided that he wanted the team to do something different and Qatar was our destination. It was a really great camp bringing everyone so much closer together. The players trained so hard and the camp was finished with a couple of 11 vs 11 games between a red team and a white team.
It was ultra competitive, but played in the best spirit. The picture taken after the second match always makes me smile. I can’t remember what I did but all the players and all the staff were looking and laughing.
That’s such an important thing as well for Phil, he wants the staff to be involved as part of the extended team. We’ve now got the picture blown up really big at camp and it brings back such great memories of that spirit of that togetherness.
Freezing Lionesses in Philadelphia (February 2019)
It was cold in the UK when we left for the US, but it was even colder there. The training pitch was next to Philly Union, next to the river and the wind was freezing. Everyone was wearing snoods upon snoods, every jacket and coat they had.
Philadelphia has a really interesting mix of industry and culture. In fact, where we trained you could see a factory in the background with smoke billowing out of it set against this really clear crisp blue sky.
The team trained in the afternoon and the sun was getting low, so I tested this shot that I really wanted to get, because I knew I’d only have 10 minutes max to get it when the players arrived. I really hoped the bus wasn’t late! Sure enough, just as the light was going, the players started their warm up and I caught this shot of Fran jumping, during her warm up - which was perfect.
SheBelieves Cup - England vs Brazil
Beth and Ellen both scored against Brazil. Ellen scored first and did her traditional glasses celebration then Beth scored a ‘Crot’ as she calls it. She definitely meant it, she had done it previously and has done it again since.
She’s amazing around camp, Beth, they both are. She had a fantastic season with Arsenal and she was buzzing after the match. I went on the pitch afterwards, as it’s always nice to get your goalscorers together. They are two of the happiest people around the squad and that happiness is so infectious.
SheBelieves Cup - USA vs England
I must admit I’m slightly annoyed with myself with this picture. I saw that Steph was standing over the free kick and I knew in my heart she was going to score. I started moving down the sideline as I had a feeling she would celebrate towards the bench because of the amount of togetherness in the squad.
There was a bit of gamesmanship and to and fro-ing with the ref having to move the wall back so I only went half way up the sideline. Toni touched the ball to Steph and she scores the most amazing free kick.
She starts running toward the bench, but I couldn’t quite get the shot I wanted, which was straight on, but what I did get was Steph alongside a dejected Megan Rapinoe in the same image. The contrast between Megan’s deflation and Steph’s elation. I’m annoyed I didn’t get further down the sideline, but this image does tell the story pretty well.
Taking an Ice Bath in Nashville
Everything on the camps is so professional. Preparation and recovery are key and the team behind the team in medical and fitness work hard to make sure the girls are in top condition. I was really keen to show the lengths the girls go to for a good recovery.
We didn’t have an ice bath available so they arranged for the hotel to get some ice, and they made one themselves. Steph performed the captain's role of topping up the ice. Keira Walsh was actually with her bench jacket on in the bath and Karen Bardsley’s face was just brilliant as the ten minutes started in the bath.
This picture was something a little bit different, it showed their dedication, their professionalism but also that they do everything to the best of their ability every single day with a smile on their face.
Winning the SheBelieves Cup – First Shot With the Trophy
We drew the USA match and rolled on to Japan. The girls nailed it in the first half and we won fairly comfortably. We had to get off the pitch really quickly for another match to begin after us. There wasn’t much of an opportunity to celebrate.
So we went back to the changing room, and once the girls had done their media bits, someone from our team played a blinder and managed to get hold of the trophy. All the girls still had their kit on, and we had the trophy for 15 minutes ahead of the trophy presentation. It was just chaos.
Group shots, individual shots on a tight timeline. The whole team wanted to make sure Izzy, who had suffered an injury, was included, so we didn’t do anything until she had had the best treatment possible. It really was a whole team thing.
Even though Izzy was distraught, everyone wanted to be altogether. I love that the pictures were taken in the girls’ full kit, and not in their tracksuits. It felt like we could allow ourselves an hour or two of celebrations before turning focus to the World Cup.
Sleeping With the SheBelieves Trophy
After we won the SheBelieves Cup, I came up with a few ideas and I threw them out to the players. I am really lucky and privileged to work with the team, they trust me even when I come up with some silly ideas.
I said to Steph I want to do a shot of a few of you going to sleep next to the trophy if it looks rubbish we won't use it. She said ‘What do you mean, in bed with the trophy?!’ I kind of liked the old school throwback to the late 70s imagery when you’d have those classic ‘sweet dreams’ images of players going to sleep with the trophy next to them. She said ‘okay we’ll have a look and see’.
Rach Daly, Ellen White and Carly Telford, some of the 'shy' members of the squad, came along for moral support of the skipper. Karen Bardsley was also in the room taking pics of me taking pics and laughing. We popped the trophy down on the bed and my biggest challenge was to stop them all laughing and smiling.
It really is a ‘sweet dreams picture’ because waking up the morning after having toured in America and beaten the USA to the trophy is the sort of things dreams are made of. They looked at it laughed and they just said yes, let’s keep this.
Overnight Training With the Marines (June 2019)
It’s been fairly well documented that we spent a night camping with the Marines. We were given five minutes to put our phones in a box and to tell people we were going to be off the grid. We gathered essentials and left to take on a series of activities.
We had army camouflage paint on and the fatigues etc. The Marines were inspirational and their stories were humbling. As somebody who has never been in the army, seeing these guys that have reached the pinnacle of what they do, and gone through the toughest training in the world was amazing.
They talked so passionately about leadership, their team and following a plan. Every single player and every single member of staff took part. We all got round a fire and Georgia Stanway toasted marshmallows asking if you would like it done medium rare or well done.
I begged them to let me have my camera with me and I think they just took pity on me after a few hours. It was so great to capture the team building and just again another example of how we’ve built such a fantastic team spirit. This image is of my camp neighbours Steph and Jade and yes they really did sleep in the tent all night.
Be Ready (May 2019)
Our media and marketing team have made sure the whole message around everything we do is BE READY. When I went to the first gym session of the pre-World Cup camp I walked along the corridor and was met by this fantastic branding on the floor in bold letters.
I waited outside the doors and I could see Steph and Carly coming out, having spotted me waiting. They throw the doors back and have got such a big grin on their faces and the big arms up, It’s just a lovely relaxed image.
The players call me 'pappasnappa' probably since I always have the camera ready to ‘pap’ their picture - I just feel really lucky to be documenting this group of amazing players and staff and that message, Be Ready is what we are for the next stage of the journey - the World Cup France 2019.
Photos kindly provided by the FA ahead of the Lionesses' matches against Scotland, Argentina and Japan.
Photographer: Lynne Cameron @pappasnappa