Lionesses: 'Angry' Beth Mead determined to make up for lost time after injury and Olympic blows

Lionesses: 'Angry' Beth Mead determined to make up for lost time after injury and Olympic blows

Beth Mead is a firm believer that she plays her best football when angry — and so the Netherlands should beware tonight.

Mead is more fired up than ever as she prepares to make her first appearance for England in over a year.

The forward’s return could not be more timely as the Lionesses’ Nations League campaign and Olympic dream is hanging by a thread.

They must beat the group leaders at Wembley tonight and then Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday.

That, however, may still not be enough to make next year’s semi-finals, as two wins for Belgium would see them top the group, no matter what England do.

The Lionesses must make the final of the Nations League, or finish third and hope that France do, to secure Team GB a spot at next summer’s Paris Olympics.

Beth Mead makes her Lionesses return tonight (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Beth Mead makes her Lionesses return tonight (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

That is acting as fuel for Wiegman’s squad, who have lost three of their last five games, but especially Mead. The 28-year-old was overlooked for the Tokyo Olympics two years ago and used that pain as motivation, finishing as the top scorer at Euro 2022 a year later.

“Not getting into the Olympic squad was devastating and was followed by anger,” said Mead. “But it probably helped me have the season I had, so if you put positive spin on it, it was probably the best form I’ve been in for my career with Arsenal and England.

“I was very angry about the situation before, which made me play angry but stable. It was a good angry and controlled aggression.

“And then now, because of my injury, I’m probably more fired up and angrier than I’ve ever been because of missing a year of football.”

The past 12 months have not been easy for Mead, both on and off the pitch. She ruptured an ACL in November last year, which ruled her out of the summer’s World Cup, and her mother, June, died of cancer in January. She insists the hard road back has made her mentally stronger, and there are signs, too, that she is rediscovering her best form.

Mead has made six appearances in the Women’s Super League for Arsenal this season and scored twice against West Ham on Sunday. Her return is a major boost for England’s attack, which has struggled in her absence. Even at the World Cup, the Lionesses’s journey to the final was built on defensive steel and not the attacking flair that won the Euros.

Mead can change that and, in particular, her movement and finishing should give England the clinical edge Wiegman has been calling for. The real challenge for Wiegman now is trying to fit in all her attacking options. Alessia Russo should lead the line, but beyond that it is hard to work out how Chloe Kelly, Ella Toone, Fran Kirby, Lauren Hemp, Lauren James and Mead all fit into the team.

Three of them should start, and whoever misses out will provide serious firepower off the bench. That was key in firing England to Euro glory and it is fitting the Lionesses are back at Wembley. The stadium has been home to some special moments for them. Wiegman needs another one now.