In recent years the popularity and awareness of Women’s football has seen a huge increase with improved TV coverage and the success of the England Women’s team at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, in which the Lionesses finished in 3rd place. Last year’s Women’s European Championship was covered on Channel 4, with every England and Scotland game being shown live. This increase in coverage has prompted more girls to take up the sport and consider it as a serious career path rather than a part-time job as it has been previously. Someone who’s passion for football has stemmed into an already successful career, despite being only 22 years old, is Beth Mead. Currently playing for Arsenal WFC, Beth has been part of a promotion winning team and represented England, so I spoke to her about her career so far and hopes for the future.
Growing up in Whitby, sport has always been a big part of Beth’s life, though she did confess: “I’ve always enjoyed the competitiveness in any sport I’ve played, particularly football.” However, her competitive nature has served her well as a huge motivator and aided her desire to win throughout her relatively short, yet successful career so far. As she said, Mead has always enjoyed any competitive sport, though football has always been a particular passion. “It has always been something I’ve loved doing. I’ve worked really hard over the years to be the best player I can and will continue to do so,” Beth explained.
Mead’s career began at Middlesbrough’s Centre of Excellence as a teenager where at a young age she knew what it would take to play professionally. “I knew if I worked hard and believed in myself, I had a good chance of getting to where I wanted to be,” Beth said, though she didn’t do this all on her own, adding: “the coaches at Middlesbrough were great; they really helped with my development”. Although she loved her time there, at the age of 16, Beth was offered the chance to move to Sunderland, who at the time where in the second division of women’s football, the FA Women’s Premier League. Despite being young and having to move away from home, it was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down. “It was a great opportunity for me to show I was capable of playing,” Beth explained, “I absolutely loved my time there. I think I’ve worked really hard over the years to get to where I am today and so far, it’s all been worth it!”
Playing with Sunderland allowed Mead to really show off her talent as she played a part in the team’s promotion to the WSL1, the women’s equivalent of the Premier League. Speaking of the achievement she said: “I’ve had so many proud moments but that is up there with one of my proudest. That was a great season!” With her career blossoming and the possibility of playing professionally as a career now a reality, Beth refused to give up on what she had been working for outside of football like many others in her position may have done. She decided to continue with her university studies, and now believes that it has actually aided and improved her as a football player as well. “For me, it is so important. Continuing my education at university has also helped me become a better athlete. I gained so much knowledge that I can use to improve my game,” she told me.
After scoring 77 goals in 78 appearances for the Black Cat Ladies, Mead soon caught the attention of other high-profile clubs. The opportunity to move south arose in early 2017 and was one that she definitely couldn’t turn down. Arsenal WFC are one of the most successful women’s team’s in the country having won all 4 major trophies in the 2006/7 season, a feat not replicated by any other British team, men’s or women’s. So, when they approached Beth about a move, she jumped at the chance. “Arsenal is a huge club and it was a really proud moment for me and my family. The years of hard work and support from them and my coaches helped me get here,” Mead explained.
The question in football is always ‘how long will a player stay at a club?’ and for the foreseeable future it appears Beth is very happy on the red side of North London. “I’ve loved every minute of being here so far and it is a huge club. I’ll continue to work hard and help the team to score goals and win games, that’s why I’m here! I’m looking forward to many more years,” she described. At only 22 years old and already an influential figure in the team, Beth is hoping to spend the future working at Arsenal to improve herself, as a player and a person.
But it’s not only in the domestic leagues that Beth has played, having represented England at several age levels including the Under-23 team, and only last week receiving her first senior England call-up. But after wearing the shirt on so many occasions, does she ever get used to it? “No not really,” she replied, “it’s such a proud moment to represent your country and it’s something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a kid.” Playing regularly in the WSL1 and having played a part in Sunderland’s promotion, Beth’s career can only continue to improve and we could soon see her playing in the senior England team regularly if she can continue the hard work that she is so dedicated to.
Although female participation in the sport is slowly increasing, there is always more that can be done, and as a role-model for many young players, Beth spoke of the advice she would give to young girls wanting to play the sport. “I’d say play with no fear. I started playing against boys when I was six and I quickly built my confidence and ability. If it’s something you enjoy doing you should go for it!” Beth advised, adding: “getting more women’s games on TV really encourages people – I think it did a few years ago with the World Cup. We need to continue to support and encourage girls!”
At the age of only 22, Beth Mead is at one of the most successful women’s club’s in the country, and the world. She has been involved in football seriously since her early teens, working hard to turn her dream career into a reality. She had an impressive scoring record at former club Sunderland, and may not have quite replicated it so far in her Arsenal career, but there is still a long way to go with her seeing her future at the club. At the moment, Beth is just focussing on her game and a regular place in the Senior England Women’s team, working hard to be the best player she can be.
(heading picture credit: Getty Images)