Lioness Katie Zelem: Nerves are good – it’s just about channelling them the right way

Zelem is taking on her first major tournament alongside close friend Keira Walsh (Bradley Collyer/PA)
Zelem is taking on her first major tournament alongside close friend Keira Walsh (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Manchester United star Katie Zelem wants one thing if England win the World Cup: Oreo milkshakes.

“After games, I like to have an Oreo milkshake. That’s my go-to thing – so simple and easy, but I just love it. So, if we win, I will have a lot of Oreo milkshakes,” Zelem, 27, says with a laugh.

But if Oreo milkshakes are Zelem’s top priority after she’s played, what fuels her before a match?

“Before games, I’ll always eat pasta. I lived in Italy for a year, so pasta is one of my favourite things and [living in Italy] really gave me inspiration for different types, rather than just the basic stuff.”

Training for a major tournament is no small feat, and combined with nutrition, camp before the tournament will be intense.

“Obviously, people are all at different stages of [fitness]; some finished the league a bit earlier, and some played more minutes than others, so it’s about getting on the same page, and then ramping it up. It’ll be running, training, gym, everything you can think of.”

Facing disappointment when she was not selected for the Euros team, the fresh Lioness has worked hard to get the call-up.

“Last year, with the Euros, it didn’t quite go to plan, so I’m so proud of the season I’ve had. We’ve got our rewards by being selected to represent England at a World Cup,” Manchester-born Zelem divulges. “My first major tournament and I’m so excited.”

But waiting for the news as to whether she would be heading to Australia and New Zealand, where the Women’s World Cup is taking place this summer, was nerve-wracking. Zelem didn’t want to miss her shot again.

“I was actually at home, waiting,” she says. We knew we were going to get a FaceTime call, so it was an anxious morning for everyone.”

Heading to her first World Cup, there are bound to be some nerves.

“It is a good thing to feel nervous. You’re out. You’re at a World Cup. It should be a little bit nerve-wracking, playing with and against the best players in the world. Nerves are good. It’s just about channelling them in the right way,” Zelem adds calmly.

Zelem is looking forward to being reunited with legendary Lioness, fellow midfielder and Barcelona player, Keira Walsh.

“I do love joining up with the girls and playing with everyone, but Keira Walsh is a really good friend of mine and I have known her for about 15 years. We played together at the youth age groups a lot, we have done a lot of training camps in England,” the footballer explains.

“She moved, and went from being on the doorstep to a totally different country. So, there’ll be a nice reunion at our first major tournament together.”

Of course, there will be some noticeable players missing in Beth Mead and Leah Williamson, as ACL injuries have ravaged teams all over the world this season. “One or two is unlucky, but I think so many is just crazy. It certainly needs to be looked at – whether it’s our training load or the changes in play in minutes. As you see the women’s game rise and grow, the expectations become to play more games and have less recovery,” Zelem notes.

It means the Lionesses of the Euros have had a shake-up. The new squad is missing its captain and top scorer, but Zelem and the rest of the team are still dreaming of World Cup victory.

Katie Zelem, England Lioness and Manchester United Captain, is the brand ambassador for the healthy recipe box service Green Chef which is all about healthy living, your way.