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Rachel Yankey could not contain her delight after receiving the International Player of the Year award and she told Women's Soccer Scene of her gratitude at being named England's best player over the season. "I cannot think of a bigger honour than to be picked by your players to say that you've done really well," she smiled. "Obviously the opinion of the managers and the fans count, but the players really matter as they have to play with you week in week out. I am touched by it and I thank all of them."
However Rachel is also quick to point out that it has been a great season for the team as a whole. "I feel that I've been getting fitter and stronger and it's just getting better and better for me and the team. Everyone has come on a step and it is great for English football and for kids to watch. It's really looking good in the build up for the Euros, hopefully we'll keep going and who knows where we will end up."
The award also follows on from Rachel's achievement of reaching 50 appearances for England, during the Algarve Cup. "I remember when Burkey (Karen Burke) got her 50th cap and both Sue Smith and I were made up about that," she says, "but for Sue to get her 50th cap and then me a couple of games after was amazing as we are great mates."
The battle for the left midfield position is one of the hottest in the England team between Rachel and Sue Smith and the Birmingham City winger has nothing but praise for her great rival and friend. "Sue is a great player and for me to be playing above her means I must be doing well and have to keep playing well if I am to get that number 11 shirt," she admits. "In my mind, Sue's a definite England starter and I feel privileged to be able to start in front of her, so I have to keep up a friendly battle as we are really good mates - there is no nasty rivalry so if Sue plays I am made up for her and I am sure it's the same the other way round."
So how does Rachel feel that England can do in Euro 2005? "To be honest, the way we are feeling at the moment, we just want to go in and win each game," she replies. "Finland will be a tough test in our first game and we will need to settle ourselves down. If we could get a win there, it would be great but I don't think at the moment that the England team fears anyone.
"I don't see any reason why we couldn't go all the way and we'll try our very best to do that. We're not going there just to make up the numbers, we're not hosting it just for an easy option and we are going to prove that we deserve to be there."
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