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England Head Coach Hope Powell has paid tribute to Mary Phillip as the defender who won 65 caps for her country retires from the game.
Hope believes that the 'single-minded' Phillip can reflect on a career of incredible achievement for club and country, but hopes that she will remain in the game in a coaching capacity. She explained to TheFA.com: "Mary has been to two World Cups. Not many people in the game can say that and she is the first to do it for England. Hopefully in time more players will get the chance to go to two Finals, but for now that's a record she can be proud of.
"She's seen the changes in the game and recognises the work that has been done, and for her personally she has had an incredible journey throughout her career. She captained England to qualification for the World Cup, she has had a lot of highlights and is a great ambassador. I don't think many players can boast the achievements that Mary can. She captained Fulham to the Treble, won the UEFA Women's Cup with Arsenal; as well as everything she did with her country.
"Her single-mindedness is certainly one of her strongest attributes, she always knew what she wanted. She had a long and very successful career but I think that the time to retire is appropriate having achieved so much."
Hope also believes that her achievements mean that she has much to pass on to the next generation. "Mary was a great example for other players and she has had an impact on a number of the younger players who are now coming through for England. It's always important to have role models who can pass on their experience and Mary certainly did that. She's still involved with coaching kids, which is brilliant, and she has expressed an interest of coming down to observe some sessions when she feels the time is right to take her coaching career forward.
"It's nice when players decide to go down that coaching line that young kids can see all the things they achieved during their career, and Mary can certainly call on a number of achievements."
TheFA.com also caught up with the former England and Arsenal defender to ask her just what stands out from an illustrious career filled with highlights. Mary said: "Looking back on my England career it all started rather suddenly. It was 1995 when I got my first real call-up to the senior squad to go to the World Cup in Sweden. That was really unexpected.
"Then there was the preparation and getting the girls ready for Euro 2005 which was played in this country. But I think the biggest moment was qualifying for the World Cup in China. Faye [White] was injured for a few of the qualifiers, so I captained England on those occasions. I was fortunate enough to lead the team in the final game in France where we made it through and it was amazing.
"Being part of such a big effort, so many players working so hard and then making it with the result in Rennes was incredible. You can't really explain how good the feeling was at the time."
Having been to a World Cup 12 years earlier, Mary says that the second time around had more of an impact on her: "In '95 I had only been part of one training camp and without any caps when I came into the squad. I was only 18 and the experience was great, but it was pretty unexpected.
"But in 2007 I really felt I was a part of it. I had played in the qualifiers and then played in all the games at the Finals. It was ten times better for me personally than Sweden in '95 because I didn't experience any of the build-up to that tournament."
Mary believes that in the intervening 12 years between her two World Cup appearances, the game has evolved dramatically for the better. She admitted: "The game has changed a great deal during my career. Hope [Powell] has done so much to bring the team and the players forward. She has a great team around her and everything is done to get the best out of the players. I remember in '95 I had a few training sessions with the coaches before the tournament but there wasn't anything like the detail that there is now.
"Dawn Scott puts together fantastic training plans tailored for each player, you get advice on your diet, overcoming injuries, everything. Playing in China I would say was the fittest I have ever been in my football career. That support from the medical staff and the management team was crucial. That's the biggest change from '95 at the start of my career to now."
Domestically, Mary has also had one or two highlights and her achievements with the London trio of Millwall, Fulham and Arsenal really stand out. "Winning the Double with Millwall in 1997 was amazing. It was the club I had played for the longest and we had endured some difficult seasons but to come through that year and win two trophies was fantastic.
"Captaining Fulham to the Treble was another highlight, and obviously winning the quadruple with Arsenal is right up there. To be the first British side even to reach the UEFA Cup Final, and then win it on top of everything else that season, was very special. That was the same year as the World Cup in China, so that has to be the happiest year of my career."
As she calls time on her career, Mary believes that enjoyment is paramount for every young girl taking up the game. Together with hard work and sacrifice, it is that love for the game that she feels can take you all the way.
"You have to be willing to sacrifice a lot for the game, so to do that you have to enjoy it. If you love the game and you give everything you have, then you will get your reward. I've put in so much time and so much effort into football, but when I look back on what I've achieved and the things I've done - it's all been worthwhile.
"I realised it was time to hang up my boots because I stopped enjoying football, but I know there are so many young girls out there playing the game who enjoy it so much and that's what it's all about."
We would also like to say thanks and best wishes for the future to Mary Phillip - so dependable and valuable for both club and country.
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