Manchester United forward Lizzie Arnot says “amazing” Aberdeen-raised Olympic hero Dame Katherine Grainger has inspired Scotland’s women ahead of their maiden World Cup.
The Scots were set to travel out to France today, with their first group game against England in Nice on Sunday
Shelley Kerr’s team were spoken to by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, tennis’ Judy Murray and new Scotland men’s boss Steve Clarke in the aftermath of their send-off friendly win over Jamaica at Hampden last week.
And former rower Grainger was the latest to share her wisdom with the camp.
Grainger won five medals over five Games – including gold at London 2012 alongside Anna Watkins in the double sculls – to become Britain’s most decorated female Olympian.
On what the chair of UK Sport had told the squad, ex-Hibs player Arnot said: “We had Katherine Grainger here speaking to the squad. She talked about the pressures, about the fans, the expectation and all that brings.
“Her best message was to tell us that, if we’re ever nervous, we should just think about why we started our sport. That brought it home.
“The way she explained things, that would really get you focused. Because there’s a lot going on at a major event – so you have to get your thoughts together.
“If you are thinking about why you started this journey, it helps you understand how you got to this point.”
When asked what sprung to mind when she considered why she began playing the game, Arnot said: “I started playing football for the pure love of it. That was the main thing.
“It has always been a dream of mine, since I was young, to be here.
“Katherine is an amazing speaker. It was great that she came to see us, we could have listened to her all night. It was hugely inspirational.”
Arnot thinks the magnitude of the stride forward they will take in Nice hasn’t quite sunk in, although they are well aware they will be making history when they take to the field against Phil Neville’s England.
Win, and the result will put the Scots en route to the knock-out stage of the World Cup.
The 23-year-old said: “You don’t take it all in. Maybe in the odd quiet moment, a family member will mention it.
“You have to take it in your stride and not build it up too much. You don’t want to create too much hype.”
Arnot doesn’t want Scotland to get too drawn into the occasion, to the point it affects their performance on Sunday.
She said: “You don’t want to get caught up in it too early.
“But there’s a mental side to feeling ready and confident. Excited, as well. I think the more excited you are, the easier it is to relax.”
The United attacker reckons, unlike in the men’s game, many of the biggest stars at England’s top club teams being Scots means the Dark Blues can hurt their eternal foes.
She said: “There are a lot of us down in England. People are getting recognised.
“Claire (Emslie), Jen (Beattie) and Caroline (Weir) have just won the FA Cup with Man City, Erin (Cuthbert) is in the team of the year, Kim (Little) and Lisa (Evans) have won the league. That’s massive.
“We have players involved at the highest level now. That’s great.”
Arnot thinks she’s lucky to be playing at this moment in time.
She said: ‘It’s crazy, when you think that it was looked down upon, the very idea of females playing football.
“I’m so lucky that it’s now in a good place.”