Beth Mead rise to stardom comes as no surprise to those who know England star best

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Beth Mead rise to stardom comes as no surprise to those who know England star best
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It was after England’s 8-0 demolition of Norway earlier this month that Arsenal legend Ian Wright declared Beth Mead was a “goalscoring monster”.

Mead had just torn the Norwegian defence apart, scoring a hat-trick and setting up another goal, and Wright was blown away by her performance.

She has been a menace throughout the whole group stage, which she finished with five goals — a new record for a Women’s Euros.

The Arsenal forward remains the tournament’s top scorer and, if England book a place in the final this week, the 27-year-old will be a big reason why.

Mead believes she is in the form of her life and she has lit up this Euros, but in truth her performances have been of a high level throughout the past year.

She has scored 19 goals and provided 12 assists during the 18 games of Sarina Wiegman’s tenure with England, while in the Women’s Super League last season she set a record for the most chances created in a single campaign.

It is quite the turnaround from a year ago, when Mead was left hurt after being left out of the Team GB squad for the Olympics in Tokyo.

Mead, however, did not sulk and those at Arsenal noticed how she returned for pre-season with added fire in her belly.

Leah Williamson, who plays with Mead for Arsenal and England, said: “I know Beth, she’s a sensitive person but also knows what she wants.

“I know how much it hurt her [to be left out of the squad]. Sometimes you need something to give you a little wake-up call. Now there is no argument she deserves her place in this team, that’ll mean the most to her.”

England celebrate beating Spain to reach the semi-finals. (The FA via Getty Images)
England celebrate beating Spain to reach the semi-finals. (The FA via Getty Images)

The key to Mead’s turnaround over the past 12 months has been having coaches at club and international level who believe in her. Those who have worked with her at youth and senior level describe her as a shy person, but when she feels trusted then her confidence grows.

That has certainly been the case at Arsenal, where Jonas Eidevall has made her a key part of his attack and pushed her to play her own game. Indeed, in one of the Swede’s first training sessions, Mead got the ball out wide, trapped it and turned back to lay it off — instead of running at her opposite number.

Eidevall blew his whistle and stopped the session, telling Mead to never do that again. He wanted her to do what she does best, run at players, and he told her he had her back, even if she failed. Fittingly, Eidevall was doing TV punditry for the 8-0 win over Norway, where Mead scored one of her goals by dribbling past three players in the box.

Wiegman has put a similar amount of trust in Mead and Lucy Bronze, who plays with her on the right and has noticed a difference in her play.

“Her self-belief has dramatically changed,” says Bronze. “I have played with Beth for a long time, but she has always been on the opposite side to me. And I’d be shouting at her, trying to get more out of her.

“I’ve always known she has what it takes to really shine in a tournament. Sometimes she’s not had that belief as much as other players around her. I knew she was always capable of it.”

Beth Mead and Millie Bright. (Getty Images)
Beth Mead and Millie Bright. (Getty Images)

Mead’s rise has also come as no surprise to David Scott, who coached her when she was a youngster and playing for his team, California Girls.

At the age of eight, Mead was playing in the Under-12 team and for the Under-10 boys and she would routinely score eight or nine goals a game.

“There were usually about four games going on at the time, but you would find parents who would stop watching a match to watch the girls, and more so Beth,” says Scott.

“The quickness of her feet and her actual speed stood out a mile. A lot of the time she got fouled because her feet were so quick.

“She’d pick the ball up on the halfway line and run. She used both feet. I had never seen a girl play the way Beth did.

“I would have put a bet on her playing for England then. You could see then how far she was going to go.”

Mead has delivered on that early promise and now she and England are just two wins away from becoming European champions.

The heartbreak of missing out on the Olympics must now feel like a distant memory for Mead.

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