Beth Mead focused on England Euro success after Olympic snub | England women’s football team

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Beth Mead says she has learned to channel her energy “a little bit better” after going into the 2021-22 campaign fuelled by the disappointment of rejection.

The forward was named the Arsenal fans’ player of the season after a stellar campaign in which she scored 11 goals and provided eight assists, the joint highest in the league alongside Manchester United’s Ella Toone. Mead had credited her success to “playing angry” after she was not picked for the Olympics by the temporary England and Team GB manager, Hege Riise, last summer.

Now, though, with her form suggesting that she will almost certainly be named in Sarina Wiegman’s 23-player squad for the European Championship next week, she has little to be angry about. “I guess I’ve figured out how to channel my anger and energy into my football a little bit better now,” she said.

“I’m obviously a little bit more confident than I probably was last season. Hopefully I can take that into the Euros. I’m in a good place, I’m in a good headspace, my football has been good so I’m just trying to channel that energy in the right way.”

Mead, who made her debut for England in 2018, is benefiting from the clear messaging and relaxed atmosphere that the former Netherlands manager Wiegman has brought in. “I’ve known where I’ve stood, what she’s expected of me,” she said. “She’s given me a lot of confidence on the pitch and on the training pitch.

“It’s just been easy for me to go on the pitch and do what I know I can do and have the backing of my manager. I would say I’ve been a lot more free. The expectation she has for me, I understand a lot more than probably in the past.”

An emphasis on enjoying the football has been heavily injected into a squad that often seemed fazed by pressure. “It’s a different style, different managers,” the 27-year-old said when asked to compare the buildup to the Euros with the preparations for the 2019 World Cup.

“Under Phil [Neville] it was very much about hard work and now we’re just on the pitch enjoying our football and the hard work comes with that. It’s part of our DNA. Everyone just feels free, in a good headspace and we’re just really enjoying being here.”

The fact that Wiegman wants her team to attack, create chances and take them helps. The Lionesses have hit double figures four times in World Cup qualifying in the past year, but the manager has also pointed out that missed opportunities could prove costly against tougher opponents.

Women’s football graphic Moving the Goalposts
Illustration: Guardian Design

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“Obviously as a striker it’s great,” Mead said of the team’s current style. “We have scored a lot of goals in qualifying, but we could have scored more, we missed a lot of chances as well. Sarina is keeping us on our toes and she’ll always expect more. No team is perfect but she’s striving for perfection and that’s what we want as well.”

That is not to say that the demand for perfection has added pressure on the squad. Instead the vibe around camp is relaxed before the three pre-tournament friendlies and a home Euros that will have more eyes on it than ever.

“I would say so,” said Mead when asked whether this was the best England group she has trained with. “We’re a big family, the culture has been amazing. The enjoyment, I think you can see on and off the pitch, it’s been great between us: the staff and everybody involved. It’s always an honour but it’s been a pleasure to be here. It makes your job a lot easier when you’re enjoying it as much as we are right now.”

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