SANDY MacIver’s England debut could prove to be a timely one with the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon.
Winsford-born goalkeeper MacIver, a former pupil at Weaverham High School, got to represent her country at senior level for the first time in a 6-0 demolition of Northern Ireland in a friendly at St George’s Park in Staffordshire today.
The 22-year-old came off the bench to feature between the posts for the final 29 minutes in the Lionesses’ first game for 11 months.
MacIver would relish the possibility of heading to Tokyo with Great Britain this summer – nine years after being a torch carrier.
At the age of 13, she took part in the torch relay ahead of the London 2012 Games as it went through Chester.
With the Everton number one’s selection by interim boss Hege Riise for the five-day camp which culminated in the game against Northern Ireland, hopes have been raised that she could be included in the GB party for the Olympics, of which Riise is set to be either manager or assistant boss.
Regarding being in the torch relay in 2012, MacIver said: “How it came about was I think I had a friend at high school at the time who thought as a joke it would be a good idea to just put my name forward.
“I think at each stage, they would narrow the group down and I kept getting an email saying I had made it through to the next stage. And at some point I thought ‘I should probably show my dad this’.
“He didn’t believe that I had been chosen, so we had to make a few calls. I actually have the torch hanging up next to me here.”
The flame was passed between MacIver and Russia’s four-time Olympic champion swimmer Alexander Popov, and MacIver said: “I didn’t realise at the time who I was passing it to, but I read up afterwards, and what a great athlete Alex was.”
She added: “I think the chance of going to an Olympics is huge. To be able to go to an event like that would be incredible.”
While she has been a part of previous England squads, she got her first senior cap on Monday afternoon when she replaced starting keeper, Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck, 21.
Birmingham’s Hannah Hampton, 20, is another young shot-stopper that was named in the 20-strong squad for the camp so the competition for places is strong.
MacIver said: “I think with the current situation with the goalkeepers for England, everyone has got just as good a chance as everyone else, and when you see there is a number one shirt up for grabs, it does make things more exciting.
“I’ve worked with Ellie for a number of years in the youth age groups and am just starting to work with Hannah now, and I think the fact we all get on so well off the pitch really helps the training sessions and how we work on the pitch.
“Having Ellie and Hannah with me is great. I think they have had different experiences from what I’ve had, and I think together we’ll be able to support each other and push each other on.
“Ultimately at the end of the day, whoever plays in any game is always going to have the support of the other two.”
Both MacIver and Roebuck produced impressive displays when Everton were beaten 3-1 by City after extra time in November’s Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley, though it was the former who received the player-of-the-match award.
Her route to the senior England squad has been different to most.
MacIver actually started out as a striker.
She started playing for a boys club when she was six, before progressing to the Crewe Alexandra academy.
There she had her first taste of playing in goal, before getting through trials at Everton and later switching to Manchester City before moving to the USA to study in 2016.
“I played for a while in the Crewe Alexandra academy and in my last year there we needed some goalkeeping cover – so I played in one of the games and I wasn’t that bad,” she said in a previous interview.
“At the end of that season I had to try and find a new club so I was trialling as a keeper, which in hindsight was probably a bit of a risk, and Everton picked me up.
“I played there for four years and then played one more year at Manchester City before I moved to the USA.”
MacIver accepted a scholarship to play for the Clemson University college team in South Carolina.
There she quickly established herself as the number-one keeper for the Tigers but was still making frequent trips back home as she worked her way up the England development teams.
Upon graduation MacIver was offered a contract by former club Everton and made her professional debut for the Toffees in a 3-1 Women’s Super League win over Reading in January 2020.
“Going to America helped me to mature not only as a goalkeeper but as a person, being away so far from home for the first time,” she said in the press conference leading up to Monday’s match.
“I was fortunate in the league I was in that it was so competitive. It’s an opportunity I’ll never regret taking.
“I think at Clemson as well the athletes community was so tight knit, I’ve got friends who play in the NFL and are on the PGA Tour, and when you have that support from players who are in an even bigger spotlight than you are I think that helps you grow and learn.”
She has been part of the England set-up since youth level and has caps at under 17s, under 19s, under 20s and under 21s level.
She was part of the England squad that won the bronze medal in the 2018 Under 20s World Cup in France, and was awarded the Golden Glove as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.
MacIver was named in the England senior team’s travelling party during the 2019 SheBelieves Cup and trained with the team during the tournament but was not part of the playing squad.