Beth Mead ‘smiling like a Cheshire cat’ on England return

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Fit-again Beth Mead says after “a lot of tough days” over the past year she has been “smiling like a Cheshire cat” following her return to the England squad.

Mead – top scorer and player of the tournament when England won Euro 2022 – sustained anterior cruciate ligament damage 12 months ago that saw her sit out the rest of last season and the subsequent World Cup in which the Lionesses finished as runners-up.

The winger has been back in action for Arsenal in recent weeks, scoring twice in Sunday’s 3-0 win against West Ham, and received an international recall for the forthcoming Nations League matches against the Netherlands and Scotland.

She told a press conference: “I’ve been smiling like a Cheshire cat since I got here.

“It’s been a year since I was here. I’ve worked hard, I’ve had a lot of tough days and I’m just super proud of myself, being able to get back into the fold and hopefully help the team at some point.

“(The World Cup) was a tough watch. I wanted to be there and kick and tackle and do every ball with them.

“But those bad days feel so much better now I’m here and back on the pitch and doing what I love again. I’m very proud of what I’ve overcome in that time.

“Each game I’ve been playing I’ve been feeling more confident, more like myself again.”

On England’s run at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Mead added: “Me and Leah (Williamson, the Arsenal defender and England captain who has also been sidelined by an ACL injury) were sat watching games and we were still very emotionally and physically connected.

“I was devastated for them when we fell short in the final. Me and Leah struggled because we just want to help the team and we got that taken away from us by not a nice injury. But I was so proud watching them in that tournament.”

Mead returns with England in danger of missing out on top place in Nations League Group 1A – a spot they need to have a chance of obtaining qualification for next summer’s Paris Olympics for Great Britain.

Currently third and requiring results beyond their own to go their way, Sarina Wiegman’s side face leaders the Netherlands on Friday at Wembley then bottom-placed Scotland at Hampden Park four days later.

Mead is in a relationship with Arsenal team-mate and Netherlands forward Vivianne Miedema, yet another player who recently returned from an ACL injury.

“We’ve seen the good and bad days from each other and we’ve been there to get each other to this point,” Mead said. “So it’s really nice we can both hopefully get the chance to get on the pitch at the same time at some point.”

Mead’s mother June died from ovarian cancer in January this year, and the 28-year-old added: “I think last time I got a chance to play there (at Wembley), my mum was still here.

“That’s difficult for me to think about sometimes, but it also makes me very proud to try and make her proud as well. Fingers crossed I can get on the pitch and make her proud again.”

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