Georgia Stanway believes it is time to “stop talking about how big women’s football is getting and talk about how big it is” as England prepare for Sunday’s Euro 2022 final against Germany at Wembley.
The tournament hosts played in front of a competition-record 68,871 attendance when opening their campaign with a 1-0 win over Austria at Old Trafford, and this weekend’s finale at the national stadium is a sell-out.
BBC One coverage of Tuesday’s 4-0 semi-final defeat of Sweden at Bramall Lane received a peak television audience of over nine million people as Lionesses fever swept the nation.
Midfielder Stanway said when asked about the watching masses: “It’s a good job I can’t see any of them, (watching) the screen or in the stands! My eyes are on the ball.
“But I think that’s where we’re at now. I think we need to kind of stop talking about how big women’s football is getting and talk about how big it is. We’re just hitting new levels every single time.
“I think on Sunday (the fans) are going to play a massive part in being our 12th woman.”
She added: “I feel like if we can inspire one person, we’ve done our job – whereas here we’ve got thousands.
“The amount of kids that will be at the game on Sunday is massive, the amount of people wearing England shirts – and it’s not necessarily male players’ names on the back anymore, it’s female players. And I think that’s the step we’re taking, that it’s not women’s and men’s football, it’s just football in general.
“We’re here to inspire, but we’re also here to get a job done – and for us to get a job done helps the future.”
Beating the eight-time winners on Sunday will see the Lionesses – playing their third Euros final, and first since a 6-2 loss to Germany in 2009 – claim a major trophy for the first time in their history.
The match comes a year on from England’s men’s Euros final defeat at Wembley to Italy on penalties.
And Stanway said: “Quite a lot of the England men have been in touch, just wishing us well and asking if they can have a ticket – ‘sorry, lads, we’re all sold out!’
“They’ve been at us, just giving us all the information they can…and just making sure that maybe we can do one better.”
Stanway was also asked about the likes of David Beckham and Lewis Hamilton posting supportive messages on social media, and said: “When you’re playing you don’t realise who’s watching.
“It’s only afterwards when you’re going on social media and you’ve got massive names saying they’re enjoying the game or ‘good goal, good tackle’…you realise how big it is.
“I think even when you look at the royal family, they’re saying they are watching every game, I think it’s mad.
“You kind of forget everyone has a TV and everyone is not doing something on that evening. I think it’s weird that people are actually finding the time to just set out and be like ‘right, Lionesses are on tonight, get everyone round the TV’.
“I think that’s so important. Last year we brought the nation together with the men and I feel like we are just doing exactly the same now.”
Stanway also spoke about a message from boss Sarina Wiegman, saying: “I think the biggest thing Sarina said to us at the start was ‘play for the little girl that wanted to be in our shoes.’
“So play for the little girl who put all the work in at the start, went to training, loved it, dreamed to be in our position – play for her.”
Stanway – who left Manchester City and joined Bayern Munich earlier this summer and says she has been in contact with some German players during the Euros – has started all five of England’s games.
She has impressed, not least with the stunning strike that sealed a 2-1 extra-time victory over Spain in the last eight.
Asked if there had been a moment when Wiegman had told her she would be starting at the tournament, the 23-year-old said: “To be totally honest, there was a moment where I was told I wasn’t.
“And then I don’t know really what moment changed the situation, but obviously I’m fortunate for that. I genuinely don’t know what changed her mind.”