Beth England eyeing starting role for club and country

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Beth England is eager to shake off her super-sub tag but admitted she is pleased to contribute in whatever way she can for her country ahead of Saturday’s historic fixture for the Lionesses.

Sarina Wiegman’s side take on Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley, the first competitive England Women’s international to be played at the stadium since it reopened in 2007.

Chelsea forward England may have to be content with a place on the bench, having also been used as a substitute during the games with North Macedonia and Luxembourg last month.

The 27-year-old scored in both fixtures and has also netted twice for her club off the bench this season, but she insisted: “I don’t think any player wants to be tagged as a super-sub.

“Ultimately we want to play every minute we can. I am obviously very happy and proud to contribute to the team because that is what we are here for. It is a team sport and any chance I get given I want to take.

“But I think it is not a tag I would like to be known for but, again, if I am able to come on and can show I can impact and help the team, then it is never a bad thing, especially if I am scoring goals as well. I just wouldn’t say on a personal preference it is my favourite thing to be called.”

England is well aware of the competition she faces at Chelsea and with the Lionesses, with rival striker Ellen White close to becoming the country’s leading goalscorer.

Manchester City forward White has found the net on 43 occasions for England and is three adrift of Kelly Smith’s current all-time record.

While at Women’s Super League champions Chelsea, the former Doncaster Rovers Belles ace is battling with the likes of Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr for a starting berth in Emma Hayes’ team.

But England added: “It is no secret our front line at Chelsea is a very difficult one to break in to. We have some exceptional players at the club but for me it is just great to be in and amongst these players every day because we all have our different strengths and all bring something different.

“Being able to train with such high-quality players is always going to enhance anyone’s game, so I am lucky I am in a position where I get to train with them day in, day out.

“It is obviously tough. Every player wants to be playing every minute and when you look here at the likes of Ellen and everything she has achieved for the Lionesses, I think it is phenomenal and a big challenge for anyone to challenge that.

“All I can do is keep working hard and seeing which areas of my game I can improve on then hope when I get given a chance I can do my job.”

Ellen White has scored seven goals for England Women at a World Cup
Ellen White has scored seven goals for England Women at a World Cup (PA Graphics)

The history of Saturday’s match has not been lost on England, who described playing any game at Wembley as a “privilege” but her own relationship with the venue is mixed.

She was present in the summer to watch Gareth Southgate’s men beat Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, a match labelled as “one of the best games” she has attended, but then she was an unused substitute when the Lionesses last played under the arch in 2019 for the visit of Germany.

“It was a tough time the last time we went there and played Germany. It was quite disheartening not to be able to get on the pitch but equally the team did the best they could,” England said.

“To be given a second chance of potentially being on that pitch on Saturday is really exciting for me.

“I am always forever proud to wear the badge and it is funny because everyone talks about it all the time with my name England being on the back of the shirt. But having England on an England shirt at Wembley, the home of football, it would be a very special moment for me if I am able to get on.”

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