Cleverley making strides

Cleverley made her senior international debut as a starter against Tonga, alongside seasoned Football Ferns Katie Hoyle and Betsy Hassett in the centre.
Wanting to catch coach Tony Readings eye and cement her place in the squad, Cleverley didn’t muck about – nailing her first goal, and the competition opener – within the first minute.
“It’s a pretty unreal feeling,” she exclaims.
“To score in your first game, on debut, it’s pretty unreal.”
And she certainly caught Readings eye with her performance with the Football Ferns coach acknowledging her bright future on the international scene.
“We know Daisy is a massive talent for the future and it was a good opportunity to see her play against Tonga,” he says.
“She would have been nervous going into the game but there’s no better way to calm the nerves than scoring in the first minute.”
Cleverley went on to score a second in New Zealand’s 16-0 romp over Tonga which is really the icing on the cake for the midfielder who has gone from milestone to milestone this year.
She kicked off the year at the OFC U-20 Women’s Championship in February, before heading off to Costa Rica and the FIFA U-17 World Cup in March and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada in August.
Now she’s in Kokopo, Papua New Guinea lending a hand as the Football Ferns attempt to qualify for their third consecutive, fourth in total, FIFA Women’s World Cup.
While anyone else might be intimidated by the thought of playing alongside the ladies who have taken New Zealand to 19th in the rankings, Cleverley is taking it in her stride.
“I’m feeling pretty lucky,” she says of her achievements.
“I mean, I get to travel – this is my fifth country that I’ve been to this year – so it’s all pretty amazing and I feel really privileged to be here.”
And she’s been made to feel incredibly welcome by the tight-knit Football Ferns squad, who she’s relishing playing alongside.
“Since I made the Brazil tour to New Zealand I’ve kind of gotten to know the environment already so it’s been pretty easy so far,” she says.
“They’re all very welcoming and friendly girls so it’s great. I think the quality of the football is what I’m enjoying most. It’s ten times better than what I’m used to so it’s just great being with players that are so skilful.”
At just 17, Cleverley is far from a finished product and Readings believes the Ferns environment is going to contribute to her development in the best possible way.
“She was excellent yesterday, she would have learned a lot,” he says.
“But she needs to get involved in the game a bit more because when she does she really makes a difference. So for her, if she can get in the game more for the rest of this tournament, she’ll definitely be a bigger goal scoring threat.”
Cleverley and the Football Ferns take on Papua New Guinea at Kalabond Oval in Kokopo at 2pm in their second match of the OFC Women’s Nation Cup 2014.

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