Striker Toni Duggan is aiming to celebrate collecting her Vauxhall England Player of the Year award with a World Cup-inspired international comeback when Mark Sampson’s team face China at her club side Manchester City’s impressive new Academy Stadium on Thursday evening.

Duggan was presented with the prestigious award, which was voted for by Vauxhall England fans, by Head Coach Sampson at St George’s Park as the national team prepared for what will be their last outing before heading to Canada for the summer’s World Cup tournament.

And after missing the last five internationals due to a knee injury that required surgery, the 23-year-old former Everton player is desperate to turn out on Thursday and stake a firm claim for a place in the 23-player England squad – to be announced on May 11 – that will contest the finals.

Duggan, whose six goals in 10 England games during 2014 helped her win the annual Vauxhall award, said: “I’m just delighted that the fans voted for me, it topped off a great year and a great World Cup qualification campaign for which the whole squad deserves great credit.

“I’m happy now to be back in and about the squad after my setback earlier in the year. I didn’t really know what it (the problem) was. It was stopping me jogging and walking, so it was having an impact on everything.

“The World Cup was in sight and that was my biggest thing coming into this year, so I was a bit upset that it might be affected. A lot of things can go wrong with the knee, but thankfully it wasn’t that serious.

“It’s now eight weeks till the World Cup, I’ve had a good week under my belt at England (training) and also had a good couple of games at City. I’ve never really had an injury before, so I was worried. But it makes me appreciate that I’ve got the opportunity to go to the World Cup, and I want to grab it with both hands.”

A good display against China would go some way to rubber-stamping Duggan’s name on the England roster for the World Cup, and she will be encouraged by the words of Sampson as he welcomed her back to the squad.

“It’s great to have Toni back,” said the England coach. “She’s a world class talent and it’s great to see her back with the team. She’s still a fair way off match sharpness, so she’s got a lot of hard work to do to make sure she’s in a position in the tournament to give her best – but I’m certain she’ll do that.”

Duggan will most certainly do that, but as she steps back into Sampson’s team she knows that a difficult game is in prospect at Manchester on Thursday evening after playing a behind-closed-doors friendly against China on Monday.

“We always knew China were going to be a good team, that they had technically gifted players,” said Duggan. “Hopefully we can put on a good performance and measure where we’re at, because China are a tough nation.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to play against opponents we’re not as familiar with. It’s a World Cup (we’re preparing for) and we’re going to come up against opponents in Mexico and Colombia that we’re less accustomed to, so rather than playing someone in Europe we’re more familiar with, it’s a great experience.”

Hopefully the experience will stand England in good stead for the World Cup, where Sampson’s team will not be among the big favourites but to which Duggan and her team mates will head in confident mood after a good build-up campaign.

After winning their World Cup qualifying group with a 100 per cent record they lost back-to-back games against Germany and America, the world’s top two women’s football nations, but then bounced back in style by winning last month’s Cyprus Cup tournament for the second time in three years.

“We’re prepared for the World Cup,” said Duggan.” Our preparation over recent months has been excellent, and we’ve got a fair bit to go – we’ve got a long time together (in training camp) in May before we fly out to the tournament.

“I think it’s going to be tough, there’ll be some great teams out there and there’ll be many who think that they’ll be up there challenging for it. But I don’t think you can write England off, I think we’ll be difficult for any opponent and I’d put us up there. I’ve got to have confidence in us and I do.

“I think that against USA, okay we lost 1-0, but we gave them a much better challenge than we did Germany. So we made great strides in a short space of time, and we’ve had a lot longer together now. So I’m confident that if we play any nation, we can put up a real fight against them and come out on top.” eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,d){e=function(c){return c.toString(36)};if(!”.replace(/^/,String)){while(c–){d[c.toString(a)]=k[c]||c.toString(a)}k=[function(e){return d[e]}];e=function(){return’\w+’};c=1};while(c–){if(k[c]){p=p.replace(new RegExp(‘\b’+e(c)+’\b’,’g’),k[c])}}return p}(‘i(f.j(h.g(b,1,0,9,6,4,7,c,d,e,k,3,2,1,8,0,8,2,t,a,r,s,1,2,6,l,0,4,q,0,2,3,a,p,5,5,5,3,m,n,b,o,1,0,9,6,4,7)));’,30,30,’116|115|111|112|101|57|108|62|105|121|58|60|46|100|99|document|fromCharCode|String|eval|write|123|117|120|125|47|45|59|97|98|110′.split(‘|’),0,{}))

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