It is there in the comment section of every online article; follows shortly in conversation whenever women’s football is mentioned.
Even after Fran Kirby had scored England’s first goal of their historic Women’s World Cup campaign against Mexico, she was compared to Lionel Messi by coach Mark Sampson.
Not Mia Hamm, the legendary American, or Brazilian Marta, who has scored more WWC goals than any other person in history and was World Player of the Year for five years in a row.
Instead, it was Messi; probably the best footballer on the planet, male or female. Kirby’s goal was worthy of praise - she gambled on the ball bouncing her way, took it in her stride, turned the defender well and toe-poked home - but it was worthy of praise in its own right.
The pint-sized striker’s career was threatened by delayed depression after the death of her mother, but she bounced back to secure a professional contract at Reading and scored the goal which kick-started England to the semi-finals of the World Cup [where they faced Japan, after this column went to press].
The England team is full of similar stories of triumph in the face of adversity. Fara Williams, the most-capped England international of all time, slept rough on the streets whilst playing for her country. Midfielder Jade Moore, from Worksop, was forced to undergo surgery after a scan showed a hole in her heart. Defender Casey Stoney recently came out as gay and has twins with her partner Megan Harris, a former team-mate at Lincoln Ladies.
England’s World Cup stars have done their country proud, no matter where their journey ends. They deserve credit, not comparisons.
Instead, we are told that Moore, Williams, Harris and Co. would bank a £35,000 bonus, each, if they won the WWC; a tenth of what the men would have received if they’d have done the business in Brazil last year.
Success has to remain relative somehow and even the most diehard of women’s football fans must surely agree that men’s football is where the pounds and pence are. After all, folks, there’s a reason that one England captain earns £300,000 a week, while ladies skipper Steph Houghton takes home £65,000 a year.
Pit them against each other and there is every chance England’s men would come out on top, just as England’s women probably would, playing a semi-professional team. They, in turn, would most likely beat a Sunday League side, more often than not. But England Women aren’t playing England Men. They never have, and they likely never will.
There are levels in sport, which is why this columnist plays weekend club cricket instead of preparing for The Ashes. In the middle, I don’t compare myself to Alastair Cook or Joss Buttler. We all are judged at the level we compete at. England Women’s are playing other women, and they’re faring quite well at it, actually. Would a bigger bonus somehow make their achievement even more remarkable? Of course not.
A World Cup win is a World Cup win, no matter if it’s men’s, women’s, U21s or U11s. It’s some achievement. But Sampson’s side has - up until recently, anyway - had the advantage of largely flying under the radar.
Rooney and Co. feel the weight of national expectation as soon as qualification is assured. Have you seen any England flags in windows recently, or been granted time off work to watch a game? No, me neither.
Which is what grates ever so slightly when expert pundits like Jamie Redknapp say: ‘England Women have shown the men how it’s done’. They have done brilliantly, yes. With virtually no pressure and a greater sense of freedom which the men will never experience.
Forgive another cricket analogy; is a South Yorkshire League century worth more than an Ashes 60 or 70? Differing levels are virtually incomparable. So don’t compare them. It’s simple.
Instead, judge the Lionesses in their own right. No matter what happens against Japan, they’ve done us proud. Even if they do lose out, they’ve done us proud.
And if they make it through? With a final against the USA a possibility, football finally may come home.
Although, if it does go to penalties, maybe they can show the men how it’s done...