Claire Emslie: Scotland winger targets World Cup after missing Euro 2017

Winger Claire Emslie has played in the last seven Scotland Women’s fixtures under head coach Shelley Kerr

Moving to America was a gamble for Claire Emslie who knew it meant missing out on playing for her country.

But it paid off for the 24-year-old, who after four years studying in the United States is now at the heart of Scotland’s push towards the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

And the winger is determined not to miss another moment.

“It was hard to take,” she told BBC Scotland. “You get a taste of it after always dreaming of playing for your national team.

“I was told if I went to America I wouldn’t play and that was the risk I took.

“I’m really glad and lucky that [Scotland head coach] Shelley [Kerr] has given me a chance since she took over the national team.”

Emslie made her senior international debut against Iceland in 2013, having played up to under-19 level.

Accepting a scholarship to study exercise physiology at Florida Atlantics University ruled out chances of selection so the Penicuik player had to wait until after Euro 2017 for her second cap.

Mixed feelings over Euros

Emslie felt left out watching Scotland at Euro 2017 where friends Caroline Weir and Chloe Arthur were in action

Since then the Manchester City forward has embedded herself in new head coach Kerr’s squad and featured in all seven international fixtures, scoring in their 5-0 qualifying win over Albania in October.

And she hopes to feature in the Scotland squad all the way to next summer’s World Cup in France, having watched her team-mates at their first major finals from afar.

“It was hard,” she admits in relation to not being part of last year’s European Championship in Netherlands. “I was really happy to the see girls and a few of my best friends like Chloe [Arthur] and Caroline [Weir].”

“I was really jealous that they were away and I wasn’t,” she half-joked.

“But it helped motivate me to train hard over the summer, plus since moving to Man City.”

Now back in the fold she has been part of the side that twice beat New Zealand – ranked four places higher than the Scots – in Spain this month.

Emslie feels it has buoyed Scotland before their upcoming qualifying double-header against Switzerland in Schaffhausen (5 April) and Poland back home in Paisley (10 April), with Glasgow City striker Abbi Grant and Durham Women forward Zoe Ness providing competition for places in Kerr’s squad.

“It feels amazing, really exciting,” said Emslie.

“Shelley is really humble and keeps us focussed on doing the right things, all the little small things that add up in these qualifiers.

“You never expect to play a game, you just have to work hard every day at training and being in that competitive environment helps everyone.”

Emslie (left) celebrates with Manchester City scorer Izzy Christiansen (right) in their 2-1 win over LSK Kvinner to reach the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League

Quadruple ambitions

Qualification to the world’s biggest tournament is not all Emslie will have on her plate. A serious threat on the ball, she will play an important role in her club’s bid to win four competitions this season.

Manchester City are chasing leaders Chelsea Ladies in Women’s Super League 1. City also face Arsenal in the Continental Cup final on Wednesday and then take on Sunderland in Sunday’s FA Cup last-eight tie.

And Women’s Champions League quarter-finals against Sweden’s Linkopings follow later this month.

“I want to win everything,” enthused Emslie. “There’s a lot out there to work for.”

The former Hibernian Ladies and Bristol winger plays at City’s academy stadium alongside Scotland team-mates Jennifer Beattie and Jane Ross but admits she still has to pinch herself sometimes, walking the same halls as Pep Guardiola and some of the world’s top male and female footballers.

“It’s such a professional environment and I’m playing with some top class players who I’m learning a lot from on and off the pitch,” she explained.

“We play the same style of football so it’s good with the video analysis we watch the men’s clips as well to see how we want to play and what to do in certain situations.”

And she quickly adds: “It’s been hard, the hardest six months of football I’ve had in terms of training intensity and games. But I’m really enjoying it, I love it, and I’ve really improved since I’ve been there.”

Ross and Emslie training with Scotland

It all started for Emslie kicking a ball about on the sidelines of her brother’s game where a coach spotted her potential and gave her an opportunity.

But she could never have dreamed Champions League and potential World Cup football lay in her future. After all, she says, she plays because it is fun.

“A couple of years ago when I was graduating university I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue football as a career,” she added.

“Since then I’m lucky I’ve been given opportunities at Bristol and Scotland and Manchester City so to play in the Champions League has been the highlight for me so far.

“But there’s a lot more still to come.”

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