eth Mead wanted nothing more than to haul England to new heights this summer.
But although she suffered a horrific knee injury in November which killed her Women’s World Cup dream, she has long since made peace with it.
“It’s been very difficult”, Mead tells Standard Sport. “I have good and bad days. Ultimately, I can’t do my job and something that I love doing, but injuries are part and parcel of football.
“I’m positive”, she adds. “I try and spin everything in a good way. I believe things happen for a reason — maybe I was meant to slow down for a bit.
“Missing the World Cup was a tough pill to swallow, but I used it as my motivation in my rehab, so I can look at myself in the mirror now and be proud of what I did to try and get as close as I could. It wasn’t to be, this time around.”
The 28-year-old Arsenal winger admits Euro 2022 on home soil last summer “very much” changed her life.
“Football-wise, the women’s game has taken on new heights in the season just gone,” she says. “Walking down the street and meeting people is a little different now than it was two or three years ago. I get stopped quite regularly, but if someone knows who I am then that means the women’s game is heading in the right direction.”
The Lionesses won every game at the Euros and Mead was England’s star performer as they romped to their first women’s major tournament triumph.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would achieve what I did last summer — even to be on the Ballon d’Or list, let alone to come second in it.”
Mead was in electric form throughough the competition, finishing as the joint-top scorer, top assist-maker, and official best player of the tournament. No woman or man had ever managed all three in a single World Cup or Euros before.
Speaking about that trio of personal accolades, she admits: “It’s still surreal to this day, and it’s definitely one of my favourite hat-tricks of my career so far. Memories and moments that I’ll treasure forever.”
England face Haiti in their World Cup opener in Brisbane on Saturday, before meeting Denmark and China in their remaining Group D games. But England have now gone four 90-minute matches without victory and head into the tournament in their flattest form of the Sarina Wiegman era.
“I’m not concerned”, Mead insists. “There’s been a bit of transition from the Euros. We’ve had two retirements and a few injuries. If we were flying right now, I’d probably worry even more.”
Mead remains confident England will turn on the style when it really matters, particularly the players operating in her position.
“Lauren Hemp has unbelievable pace,” she continues. “Lauren James on the ball is very tough, Chloe Kelly can create a bit of magic, and Katie Robinson has a lot of pace to beat defenders. These girls have now got to step up. I have to back my winger friends.
“Sarina is pretty amazing at keeping the external out. We’ve won the Euros, so there’s a little target on our backs, but football is a funny game. The World Cup is the best teams all over the world, it’s got a bit of an extra kick.
“I’ll be rehabbing away at Arsenal, so I’ll be watching with some of the Arsenal girls such as Vivianne Miedema, Kim Little, Jen Beattie, supporting our Arsenal friends — and England!
“Once you win something, you become hungrier to win again. The girls will be champing at the bit to get that World Cup trophy.
“I’ll be their number one cheerleader this summer.”
Beth Mead was speaking at the largest ever McDonald’s Fun Football session to celebrate the landmark of over 250,000 children for across the UK benefiting from access to free football this season. Sign up to a free session near you at www.mcdonalds.co.uk/football