Beth Mead admits she might not be the player she is now had it not been for the disappointment she suffered last summer when she missed out on the Olympics.
The England winger is heading into the home Euros – getting under way on Wednesday – in superb form, with a brace in the recent warm-up win over the Netherlands taking her to 14 Lionesses goals since the start of the 2021-22 season.
Her fine form across the campaign, also featuring 11 goals and eight assists in the Women’s Super League for Arsenal, came after she failed to make the cut for Great Britain’s squad for the Tokyo Olympics.
Mead has spoken previously about having “channelled the negative energy into positive energy from last summer”.
And ahead of England playing Austria at Old Trafford in the opening game of the Euros, the 27-year-old said: “Obviously it was disappointing last summer, but would I be the player I am today if that didn’t happen? Maybe not.
“I’m enjoying my football, I’m really happy out there on the pitch, that is showing in my performances, and hopefully I can bring some of them into this summer’s Euros.”
She added: “I know it’s only been a year but I think I’ve matured as a player.
“I think I’ve started maybe not to think about what other people think and concentrate on myself a little bit more.
“I’ve played with a lot more freedom this year and I think for me, when I play freely is when I play my best football. I don’t over-complicate anything. I make better decisions, and for me, this year has been a lot more free on a football pitch.”
After her double against the Netherlands, Mead was credited with breaking a 61-year-old England record held by Jimmy Greaves for scoring the most goals in a season.
And when asked about that, she said: “I was unaware of that one at the time. But Jimmy Greaves, quite a legend, and a long time it had been held. So yeah, pretty cool to break that one.
“I’m proud of that, but I think I’ll look back at it. It’s something I think at the moment is in the back of my mind.”
England’s three warm-up games saw them score 12 times, beating Belgium 3-0 at Molineux, the Dutch 5-1 at Elland Road and then Switzerland 4-0 in Zurich, and the overall goals for figure across the team’s 14 matches unbeaten under boss Sarina Wiegman is 84.
Regarding the attack, Mead – who came off the bench at half-time against the Netherlands and started each of the two matches either side – said: “I think we’ve got a lot of quality, a lot of different qualities.
“We’re pushing each other every day. We all bring something different to the table. And at the time, Sarina has got to make that decision of what fits best for what game.”
She added, on the squad as a whole: “Regardless of who starts and who comes on, we know everyone’s going to do a job. Hopefully it’s a long summer for us and one where we’re going to have to use everybody and everyone’s going to play a big part.
“Credit to Sarina, she’s instilled that environment. We’ll be backing each other all the way. I think the competition is helping us, we’re making each other better day in, day out.”