The double Olympic gold medal winner visited the squad at their base in Maidenhead where Hope Powell’s team are preparing for next week’s crunch European Championship qualifier against Belarus in Minsk.

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Dame Kelly, an Arsenal fan, urged the squad to stay focussed as they look to secure qualification to the European Championships in Finland next year.

“The girls need to show passion, commitment and self belief to go all the way and be winners. Wearing that England shirt should be a massive incentive because we all want to represent our country,” said Dame Kelly who juggled a job in the Army with her athletics career.

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“Qualifying for a tournament like the Euros is a long process and once you actually make it to the main competition then there’s a danger of switching off because you’ve achieved your goal. But we want these girls to go all the way.

“In team sports you’re always going to get a mix of different people. You might be shy, you might find it difficult to communicate but you’re all united by responsibility and, once the Euros actually start, then there’s no place to hide and the hard work really begins.”

Hope Powell was delighted to welcome Dame Kelly Holmes into the England camp and hopes that her Olympic success story rubs off on the squad: “Being knocked out of the World Cup in the Quarter Finals was a real blow for us and it’s been difficult to deal with.

“The girls came home and then went straight back to league football plus this European Championship campaign so it’s been a tough season and we’re probably suffering from a hangover effect at the moment.

“It’s always been my plan to get someone like Dame Kelly Holmes to talk to the team as she’s comeback from all sorts of adversity and injury to reach the pinnacle of her profession.”

Now that she’s retired from the track, Dame Kelly is travelling around the country as a sports mentor and believes that females in sport need more exposure in the national media.

“We’ve got lots of great sportswomen out there but they’re not in the premier sports. Cycling and archery just doesn’t generate the same headlines which is a great shame as the public doesn’t get to hear about it.

“Young girls who are looking to get involved in sport need positive role models and, if the England Women’s team can be successful, then it will inspire everyone out there.”