Sophie Ingle: Chelsea's Wales captain is one of world's best - Ludlow

By Chris WathanBBC Sport Wales
Beth England and Sophie Ingle with the Women's Continental League Cup
Beth England (L) and Sophie Ingle were part of the Chelsea side who beat Arsenal 2-1 to win the club's first Women's Continental League Cup

Wales manager Jayne Ludlow believes captain Sophie Ingle is showing she is among the "best in the world".

Midfielder Ingle, 28, helped Chelsea to Women's Continental League Cup glory as they beat Arsenal on Saturday.

The first major honour of Ingle's career came in a season in which her national manager says she has been one of the Women's Super League's star performers.

"She has great ability levels," Ludlow said.

Ingle's displays have led to praise from club boss Emma Hayes, who was reported as saying last month that Phil Neville should build his Team GB side around her before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Ludlow, understandably, is far more concerned about Ingle's role in a Wales side still eager to reach a first major finals before the resumption of qualifying fixtures next month.

As Ingle prepares to earn a 99th cap in this week's friendly with Estonia in Wrexham, Ludlow feels people - including the player herself - are waking up to her talent.

"Sophie is an unassuming person," she added.

"She's not very loud, she doesn't share things as much as others, she's just very calm, calculated and very knowledgeable in what she does.

"She's at a point where she believes in herself too and performances are coming out regularly at the top level."

Ludlow, a serial trophy winner in her days as an Arsenal player, views Ingle's return to Chelsea last season as a factor in her progression.

After missing out to Lyon - who included Ingle's Wales team-mate Jess Fishlock - in last year's Champions League semi-finals, Chelsea are still in the hunt for the title and the Women's FA Cup this season.

Jayne Ludlow
Jayne Ludlow's Wales side return to action when they face Estonia in Wrexham on Friday, 6 March

"She's a top-level performer and it doesn't surprise me Emma is praising her," added Ludlow.

"We had discussions before she went to Chelsea about where I saw her, her performance levels for Wales, and she ended up going there and progressed phenomenally due to the coaching support they have, all the professional things they put in place.

"Soph is working extremely hard to show to everybody that she's one of the best players in the world in the position she plays in.

"If that leads to other opportunities for her, I'm thankful for that, but I do hope she shows those levels every time she puts a Welsh shirt on because she's our leader, she inspires all those around her through her performance levels and how she behaves."

After the Estonia friendly, Wales play Euro 2021 qualifiers against Faroe Islands and overwhelming group favourites Norway in April.

Norway, the 2019 World Cup quarter-finalists, are four points clear in Group C with four wins from four.

Wales are second, having won two and drawn two of their four games so far.

"It's still all to play for - we want to qualify, simple as," Ludlow added.

"But we have to put certain things in place in the next couple of months. [Against the] Faroes, we need to step up and get three points, [against] Norway we need to go on to the pitch and make sure we are competitive for 90 minutes and if we do that, there's no reason we can't get three points.

"We have to be realistic about the type of opponent we are up against and the level of player, but we're looking forward to the competition."