YORK-BORN Lucy Staniforth believes England Women’s head coach Phil Neville allows her to be “the best version of myself”.

Staniforth, 26, has won eight caps and scored two goals under Manchester United’s former Champions League and six-time Premier League winner.

She has subsequently been selected for the 23-strong squad that Neville will take to next month’s World Cup in France with Staniforth – the daughter of former York City attacker Gordon - admitting that the ex-Valencia assistant-manager has instilled his confidence in all members of the squad.

“From my very first day in the squad, I felt like I had the manger’s confidence and support and that has allowed me to be the best version of myself," Staniforth pointed out. “He encourages us to bring our personalities to the table and that is exactly what a good squad need.”

Staniforth, who started out in football playing alongside boys for Copmanthorpe Primary School, will be representing her country in a major tournament for the first time, along with ten other members of Neville’s squad who are World Cup debutantes.

Others, like Karen Carney and Jill Scott, will be playing in their fourth finals and Staniforth believes the blend of experience and youthful enthusiasm in the squad is just right, adding: “There are very experienced players, but we also have players coming in with very few caps and they are fearless and excited – that is exactly how I feel about the World Cup and that is how the other girls feel too.

“The group is so nice to be around because, off the pitch, there are some great characters, some really funny people and everyone is very chilled. These types of people are perfect for tournament football because there is a balance between having a laugh and working hard on the pitch.”

England’s Lionesses will play two warm-up games against Denmark and New Zealand before the World Cup and there is no question in the Birmingham City midfielder’s mind about what the target needs to be in France.

“We have said all along that the pressure in this group comes from the inside and we don’t pay much attention to what is happening on the outside,” she reasoned. “We have set our sights on winning the World Cup and becoming number one in the world, so we are fully aware of the pressure we are putting ourselves under and hopefully it brings the best out of us.

“The young players we have around the team are taking their opportunities with both hands now to show the world what they can do. To take players like that to the World Cup is perfect because it breeds within the team and, although you have your level heads that keep everyone on track, it is the fearlessness that spirals.

“I had a funny feeling that I might score at the SheBelieves Cup against Japan (in March), so hopefully I get that feeling again in France. The players in this team are unbelievable and, if you look at that goal, it is Jodie Taylor’s awareness to find me that makes it.”

Staniforth is joined in the England squad by former York College student Rachel Daly, who now plays for Houston Dash in the US.

The Lionesses host New Zealand in a “Road to France” international on Saturday, June 1 at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.

Kick-off is 1pm and tickets, costing between £1 and £10, are available from www.thefa.com/lionessestickets