Women’s World Cup 2019 – Ones to watch: Beth Mead

By Kathryn Batte 

Last summer we heard the story of how Harry Maguire had travelled to France as an England fan in 2016. Two years later he was representing his country at a World Cup. Madness.

What we might not hear as much about this summer is the story of how an uncapped Beth Mead travelled to the Netherlands in 2017 to watch the Lionesses. Two years on and she will be representing her country in a World Cup. Madness?

Mead made her England debut in April 2018, coming on as a substitute in a 0-0 World Cup qualifier against Wales. Five months later she made her first start, scoring twice in a 6-0 victory over Kazakhstan. Originally from Whitby, the forward graduated from Middlesbrough’s Centre of Excellence in 2011 then joined Sunderland at the age of 16. Mead spent six years there, finishing with a record of 77 goals in 78 games which eventually earned her a move to WSL Champions Arsenal.

Despite being a renowned goalscorer, Mead’s credentials have gone somewhat under the radar, until now. She was overlooked for an England cap by previous manager Mark Sampson. Even as Sunderland’s star player and regular top scorer, she had to wait for a chance to play for one of the country’s ‘big’ clubs.

It’s no surprise then that Mead has taken her international chance with both hands since Phil Neville first involved her with the Lionesses. The She Believes Cup in February was her first international tournament and Mead made her mark with a sublime goal against World Champions the United States. The cross/shot goal, dubbed a ‘crot’ by Neville after Mead scored a similar strike in a WSL match against Liverpool, was shared numerous times on social media.

Since joining Arsenal, Mead has had to adapt her style of play with competition for the No.9 role forcing her to play on the wing. This has allowed her to add assists to her game, she made 12 in the las WSL season, and gives her a greater chance of making the Lionesses’ starting line-up. The attacking positions is arguably the area which will give Phil Neville the biggest headache ahead of the opening game against Scotland with the likes of Ellen White, Toni Duggan, Frank Kirby and Nikita Parris all able to operate either through the middle or out wide. That’s without considering top scorer in the 2017 European Championships Jodie Taylor and the experienced Karen Carney.

While Mead may be less well known to some of the opposition teams than some of the other names mentioned, this could work in her favour. Parris has just secured a high profile move to Champions League winners Lyon, Jodie Taylor has been playing in America for several years, Toni Duggan is at Barcelona and Fran Kirby was once described as the ‘female Messi’. Neville revealed recently he told Mead she was ‘too nice’ but that the player has since thrived from his tough love. Mead’s strong finish to the WSL season seems to back up that claim and it was enough to earn her a place in his 23-player World Cup squad.

A few months ago Mead may have been viewed as a squad player for the tournament, someone to bring off the bench if you need a goal. But now the 24-year-old is in contention to start the Lionesses’ opening game and it would be difficult for Neville to look overlook the forward.

Mead may have gone under the radar in the past but this could be the moment she makes her mark on the international stage.

By Kathryn Batte 

Manchester United Women: the biggest club in the world can make up for lost time

By Kathryn Batte 

Fourteen years ago Manchester United abandoned women’s football.

It’s the 21st February 2005. In three months’ time the Women’s Euros will be held in the north-west of England. The hosts will play their first group game against Finland at the City of Manchester Stadium. This is the biggest moment in the modern era for women’s football in England. So why did Manchester United, the biggest and wealthiest (at that time) club in the world, decide this was the right time to pull the plug on their women’s team?

Continue reading “Manchester United Women: the biggest club in the world can make up for lost time”

Lionesses’ She Believe’s Cup victory is a milestone but leaves Phil Neville with an even greater selection headache for the summer

The dust has settled, a week has passed, now Kathryn Batte takes a look at what the She Believe’s Cup victory means for the Lionesses and Phil Neville this summer… 

Unless you’re an avid follower of women’s football, you probably hadn’t heard of the She Believe’s Cup until England’s 3-0 victory over Japan last week gave Phil Neville his first piece of silverware as the Lionesses’ manager. 

Continue reading “Lionesses’ She Believe’s Cup victory is a milestone but leaves Phil Neville with an even greater selection headache for the summer”

The ancient phrase of ‘catch the ball, boot it up’ and the evolving art of the goalkeeper in the modern game

“Goalkeepers need an element of insanity.”

These words from former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, one of the most successful German players in recent history, have been repeated many times over the years.

As someone who has played in goal I can understand that sentiment. You’re expected to be alert every second of every game, make the important saves, constantly talk to your defenders and be prepared to throw yourself in front of anything. As Peter Cech found out in 2006, that last one can sometimes be painful.

Continue reading “The ancient phrase of ‘catch the ball, boot it up’ and the evolving art of the goalkeeper in the modern game”

Why Scotland may be dark horses in next years Women’s World Cup

By Kathryn Batte

When Scotland were drawn in the same group as England for the Women’s World Cup next year, manager Shelley Kerr must have thought ‘typical’. Her team qualified for only their second ever major competition with a dramatic win over Albania in September. Shortly after it was announced the Scottish Government would provide £80,000 of funding to allow the squad to be full-time from January to the tournament’s start date in June.

Scotland’s reward? A group of death with their rivals, former World Champions Japan and Argentina.

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Lionesses can extend football fever in England

By Kathryn Batte

If you want to pinpoint the moment Women’s Football really took off in this country then 2005 is a good starting point. England hosted the Women’s European Championships for the first time and back then only two groups of four teams competed in the tournament, which Germany won for the fourth time in a row. England qualified automatically as hosts but finished bottom of their group, winning just one game. The final was played at Blackburn’s Ewood Park and attracted a crowd of 21,100 people, a record for a woman’s match in Europe. Had England made the final that figure would probably have been higher with over 29,000 spectators watching the hosts beat Finland 3-2 at the City of Manchester Stadium in the first game of the tournament.

Continue reading “Lionesses can extend football fever in England”