Rising star

Whitby-born Beth Mead will turn 21 on the May 9. As part of the Sunderland Ladies squad, she scored almost a goal a game in over 80 appearances last season and was recently voted the club’s, Supporters’ Player of the Year. More recently, Beth was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year. Fellow Sunderland player, Steve Harper, speaks to the striker about her recent success and her international ambitions

How does it feel to have won two fantastic awards in the last few weeks?

When I was travelling down to London to be up against players from Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea – the top three finishing teams last season – for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, I just thought it was nice to have been nominated. I never thought I’d go on and win it, so it was a very nice surprise.

Where did your football journey begin?

I started playing when I was six for a local team in Hinderwell, near Whitby. It was a boys team who played on a Saturday morning. I think my mum just took me to burn off some energy. The coach said that I had potential but the only opportunities to play women’s football were near Middlesbrough, almost an hour away. I got into Middlesbrough’s Centre of Excellence, where I stayed until I was 16. I continued to play in the boys school team at primary school but had to stop in secondary school as mixed teams weren’t allowed from the age of 12, and PE classes are generally divided.

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Have you always been a striker?

I played as a winger until I was 12 and wore a No.7 shirt as I saw myself as the female David Beckham! I used to go forward a lot when I was playing and did a lot of running so I made the switch to be a No .9, where I’ve played at England youth level and for Sunderland ever sine.

How would you you describe your playing style?

I’ve always enjoyed running in behind teams, similar to Luis Suárez, and like Jamie Vardy does nowadays.
Having scored a lot of goals, I’m marked a lot closer now and so I’ve had to adapt my game slightly to drop deeper and make runs to take defenders away and create space for others to score.

You’ve got a phenomenal goal scoring record: 77 in 78 games, prior to this season…

To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed I’ve only got two goals in four games this season. My teammate, Brooke [Chaplen] has five goals in four games so she’s doing really well and our understanding of playing together is improving all of the time.

Has England’s excellent third place finish in last year’s Women’s World Cup made a difference to attendances and participation levels?

Apparently attendances have almost doubled and we’re receiving much more media attention, which is obviously very good for the game. A lot of women are also starting to play full-time so the standard is improving all the time. More girls are being inspired to take up the game from an early age, which is great too.

 

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Six of England’s Women’s World Cup squad were from Sunderland but had to leave the area to further their career … is that a situation that can change?

Things are beginning to change locally and it’s great that Durham are doing well in WSL 2 [currently top of the league].
We all aspire to be like Steph Houghton [from Co Durham’s South Hetton] who is now England captain. There are a few of us now who are involved with our respective national teams and we want to prove that we can compete at the highest level – hopefully from bases in the North East.

What are your ambitions?

It’s been a bit frustrating having had such a good season last year and not having been given a chance to play internationally at a senior level. But I’ve just got to keep working hard and, hopefully, the opportunity to play in major tournaments will come.

Finally, do you ever see the day when a woman plays in the Premier League?

Physically, we’re obviously very different so I doubt it. It would be good, though, but I don’t think it’ll happen in our lifetime.

Steve Harper
www.myoddballs.com

Sunderland Ladies
www.safc.com/ladies
@SAFCLadies

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