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London City Lionesses defender Grace Neville receives first New Zealand call-up

Grace Neville, London City Lionesses (Image: thoughtsofawing)
Grace Neville, London City Lionesses (Image: thoughtsofawing)

London City Lionesses are thrilled to announce that Grace Neville has been selected to represent New Zealand as a senior international for the first time.

The London City defender continues her standout start to the season by earning a place in Jitka Klimková’s squad to take on the United States later this month.

Neville, who played youth internationals for England, opted to pursue a senior career with New Zealand last year and is excited to join her new teammates in Wellington next week.

“My mum was actually born in New Zealand, so it was always an opportunity that I had in the back of my mind,” explained the 22-year-old. “Then, about a year ago, I decided to take the chance to play with the senior team as a training player. They told me to return to my club, work hard for regular minutes, and then they called in November to ask if I wanted to come out to play against the USA in a couple of friendlies.”

Neville’s selection has received a warm welcome from supporters in New Zealand, not least from her friends and family based Down Under.

“They’re all over the moon for me,” she explained when asked about her family’s reaction to the announcement. “We have friends and family who live in New Zealand, so they’re planning to watch the games. It’s a really exciting period [of my career] and hopefully a positive one.”

Back at Princes Park, head coach Melissa Phillips is also thrilled for the defender.

“Grace has been in brilliant form throughout the first half of the season,” said the American.

“She has the quality in abundance defensively and is really hitting her stride on the other side of the ball, with one goal and four assists in all competitions. She showed so much resilience to work through injuries last season and is so deserving of this opportunity – one that I know she will relish.”

The Football Ferns will play the USA in Aotearoa in a two-match series this month, with Neville available for the opener on 18 January.

“This series takes place outside of an official FIFA window, meaning some squad members were not released by their clubs, some members will join later and others will need to depart the team early,” said Klimková.

“We are grateful to the clubs for collaboration with us and allowing many of our players to be involved. The games will be a great opportunity for the football community to see their Football Ferns and the current world champions just six months before the Women’s World Cup.”

Neville, when asked about the prospect of facing the USA, added: “It’ll be a great test for myself and the team. Afterwards, I’ll be able to bring whatever I learn back with me to the club level.”

The London-born defender is one of five debutant selections for New Zealand, but she is determined to take the task in her stride.

“I know most of the team and staff members because I went out last year as a training player and everyone was really welcoming,” Neville explained. “Now, I go in for the second time [and] probably won’t be as nervous because they are a lovely and welcoming team.”

Congratulations on your national team selection, Grace! The Pride is incredibly excited for you.

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