Women's Football

Demi Stokes on Jill Scott's retirement & her Euro 2022 sacrifice

Ali Rampling
Demi Stokes is a member of EE Hope United
Demi Stokes is a member of EE Hope United / EE Hope Utd

When the England team made the collective choice to not see their family members for the duration of Euro 2022, this was a particularly substantial decision for Demi Stokes.

The squad had decided to make the sacrifice in order to limit the number of people they came in to contact with and prevent the spread of Covid-19. For new mum Stokes, this meant over four weeks away from her two-month-old son, Harlen.

"It was tough, very tough. I think it was probably the toughest thing I’ve done," Stokes told 90min. "Your emotions are all over the shop, but when we won I just was like: thank God, because it was all worth it.

"[My partner] Katie and Harlen got to be at the final so I was honestly so grateful that from there I could share the moment with them. These are the things you do and you sacrifice and it was defo worth it."

All-nighters and giant sunglasses were a theme of the Lionesses' post-Euro 2022 celebrations - knowing she had a young baby to get back to, how hard was Stokes able to celebrate?

"I still enjoyed myself - we had a party so we all enjoyed that and then we went out as a team, so I thought: I’m going to let my hair down for one night and then be in mum mode the next day. So I was up bright and early, headed back home.

"It’s just been a whirlwind, there’s no other way to describe it. I think people are still living out of their suitcase... it’s just been mad."

Stokes had suffered semi final heartache at Euro 2017 and the 2019 World Cup, and was one of 14 members of England's Euro 2022 squad who had experienced crashing out at the last four stage at at least one previous major tournament. However, there were also nine players for whom Euro 2022 was their major tournament debut - and they secured silverware at the first time of asking.

"We always laugh and say the kids now are like: ‘oh this is easy! Is that what it [always] feels like?’ I’m like: ‘no, it’s still very hard!’" Stokes laughed.

England return to action for the first time since their Euro 2022 victory on Saturday with a trip to Austria. There have been a smattering of enforced changes to their European Championship winning squad - notably, the absence of Ellen White and Jill Scott, who both announced their retirement in August.

It means at 30, Stokes is now the third oldest member of the Lionesses squad, but has no intention of following in White and Scott's footsteps anytime soon - "Age is just a number, until my legs go, I'm doing just fine!"

Scott in particular is someone Stokes knows very well, with the pair both starting their senior career at Sunderland, before going on to play together for Manchester City and England.

"You’re pulling on my heart strings here…" the left back replied when asked about Scott. "I had an idea that Jill maybe would retire, but it wasn’t my conversation to have, I almost let her figure her things out.

"I thought I was okay with it. She did ring me, tell me, and I felt all right but when I saw all the interviews and watched the video and stuff, I actually was crying. My mum came into the room and was like: ‘aye Demi, what’s wrong?’ And I was l like: ‘I’m just watching the interview with Jill’.

"I’m not someone who gets emotional but just seeing what Jill’s achieved and what an incredible career she’s had... When I was watching the video and she was talking about being at Sunderland and to see where she’s come from and what she’s achieved; I know I’m proud to call her a friend."

Stokes was talking to 90min as part of her role as a representative for EE Hope United, whose latest campaign - Not Her Problem - aims to tackle sexist abuse online.

"Online abuse can make or break people," said Stokes. "Sometimes people think they don’t deserve to be here because of online abuse. I really want to make a change and I really want to make a difference. Even if it’s one person’s life, I want to be a part of that.

"Women are incredible and I think when we have the right support and the right tools we can go on and be really successful." 

EE Hope United is rallying the UK to tackle online sexist hate as part of EE’s commitment to digitally upskill the nation. Visit ee.co.uk/hopeunited