Stonehaven’s Christy Grimshaw is targeting an international debut after being called up to the Scotland Women’s squad for the first time.
Grimshaw, 25, has been selected by interim head coach Stuart McLaren for a 10-day camp, starting next week, which will see the Dark Blues take on Northern Ireland and Wales in friendlies.
International recognition is just reward for the Mackie Academy pupil after a debut season with Italian giants AC Milan in which the Rossonere finished second in Serie A to qualify for the Women’s Champions League and also reached the final of the Coppa Italia.
Grimshaw spoke last year of her hopes of breaking into the Scotland squad after moving to Italy from French side Metz, and might have got her chance in earlier squads but for the complications thrown up by Covid.
The delighted attacker said: “I knew they’d asked my club how I was getting on, so I was like: ‘keep doing what I’m doing’, but I knew Covid had affected their choices from outwith the UK.
“I was doing all the right things for Milan, so I knew that was all I could control at that moment.
“A few weeks ago I had a phonecall with the interim head coach Stuart McLaren, who asked me how I was doing. It was a really relaxed conversation, but that was the first time I’d had personal contact with him. Again, I was trying to not get too in my head about it.
“Then the list came out and I was on it.
“They let you know personally a day or two before, but I don’t think anyone really knows before that.
“I was buzzing.”
Grimshaw, who has turned out for Deeside and Aberdeen in the past, revealed her parents, Moira and Mick, were among the few to know about her impending call-up, adding: “They just said: ‘wait it out and we’ll see what happens’ and it was good news in the end.
“Everyone was delighted, especially from Stonehaven – I had lots of messages from people, so it was really nice.
“I see everything on social media as well and I really appreciate the support.”
— christy grimshaw (@christygrimshaw) May 31, 2021
With two-and-a-half weeks back in the north-east to look forward to after her time with McLaren’s Scots – her longest period at home for year – Grimshaw is determined to earn her downtime by winning a maiden international cap.
She said: “I know some of the girls from over the years, playing in different places. Football is such a small world and I’ve already had a few messages saying congratulations and that they’re really looking forward to catching up and that.
“It’s really, really nice and I’m looking forward to it, but my aim is to get game time in at least one the games, so I’m hoping for that.”
The SWNT, having missed out on next summer’s Euros, are currently regrouping for 2023 World Cup qualification getting under way in September.
When asked if her aim is to become a key part of the national team set-up going forward, Grimshaw said: “Definitely. When I’m there, I just need to work hard, train hard and hopefully the rest will happen.”
‘If there’s any improvement from season to season it’s always a success’ – Grimshaw reflects on a year with Milan
Having penned a new deal with AC Milan, Grimshaw is confident they can get closer to Serie A winners Juventus next term.
Maurizio Ganz’s side only lost three games in season 2020/21, bettering the previous campaign’s third-place finish to land the runners-up spot, but still wound up 15 points behind Juve, who won all 22 of their matches.
Still, Grimshaw thinks both encounters with the Turin club – including an historic home clash at the world famous San Siro – were games in which Milan were unlucky and, if they keep adding “experience and leadership” to an already international-packed squad, they’ll be contenders next term.
The Aberdeenshire player said: “At the start of the season, when we played at the San Siro, we lost 1-0. It was a penalty in the first 15 minutes and we dominated the rest of the game, so it was really close.
“When we played them again in Torino, it was a little bit more of a difficult game, but we played really well and had the ball for a lot of the game.
“Bringing in bigger players with experience and leadership is something which will definitely help us catch them, which we are doing.
“Juventus have been leaders in the league since when it started, but with big names, bigger players, experience and leadership, I think next season it won’t be a problem for us to compete.
“This season it wasn’t a problem, they were just unlucky situations. I think definitely we’ll be in for it next season.”
On playing at the famous home of AC Milan and Inter Milan’s men’s side, Grimshaw added: “It was unreal, obviously, and I think it was the first time a women’s team had played at the San Siro, so that was incredible.”
Although they didn’t win the league, Grimshaw’s two league goals – both netted against San Marino in the season’s early throes – helped AC qualify for the Champions League next term.
It was a key objective for Milan’s women’s side (“the competition every club wants to be in”) with their male counterparts seven-time European Cup winners, and Grimshaw thinks they can go far.
Scenes from Sassuolo 🥳
— AC Milan (@acmilan) May 15, 2021
Despite the team’s undoubted progress and success, the season hasn’t been without it’s difficult moments for Grimshaw, most notably Sunday’s penalty shoot-out Coppa Italia final defeat to Roma in Sassuolo’s Matei Stadium after a goalless 120 minutes.
The game was the first time Grimshaw has played in front of fans in Italy, with around 2,000 in attendance, and the Rossoneri lost the shoot-out 3-1.
Grimshaw was unsuccessful with her spot-kick, labelling the moment the most nervewracking of her career to this point, but thinks being in the final is another plus Milan can take from the campaign.
She added: “We should’ve finished the game before it went to extra-time and penalties, because we had the bigger chances.
“Penalties is always a lottery and I’d rather have lost in the 120 minutes than go to penalties, as it’s such a hard way to lose.
“But it was a really good day. The thing that matters a lot is we got to the final.
“Teams like Juventus lost out to Roma, so they were always going to be a hard team to play coming off the momentum of playing Juve in the semi.”
“Ready to work hard to win” @christygrimshaw’s promise as she extends her stay with the Rossonere 🗣️
— AC Milan (@acmilan) May 27, 2021
Stonehaven’s Grimshaw will be back with Milan in July to prepare for the new season. She thinks it would have been “ridiculous” if the last year hadn’t made her a better player.
She says she loves Italy’s “relaxed” culture, its cuisine and is becoming fluent in the native language – at least when it comes to football, but expects the ongoing relaxation of Covid restrictions to help her work on her conversational Italian.
Milan are ambitious on the field, with experienced internationals in their ranks to balance younger players like Grimshaw.
The 25-year-old is close to 14-cap England international striker Natasha Dowie, and also points to older players like Spain’s Veronica Boquete (56 caps) and German international Julia Simic, as well as Yui Hasegawa – a 24-year-old midfielder with 42 caps for Japan – as players she has learned from.
Grimshaw said: “Some of the signings we made showed the club and league are attracting big players and that’s fantastic for all of us who are playing here who are younger and don’t have the experience or a full football career yet.
“When these players come in it raises the standard for everyone and it’s really good.
“Natasha signed when I did, last summer.
“Obviously she’s English and I’m Scottish, so we have that bit of banter, but at the same time we speak the same language and have the British culture in us.
“We get along really well.
“This year’s been really good. We’ve had Boquete, Simic – who has played in Germany for Bayern and West Ham. Vero played for PSG and in America. And we’ve just signed a Japanese player who has been at the World Cup.
“Players who’ve come in who’ve played at major tournaments are raising the standards.