England record-breaker Beth Mead says strength in depth will be crucial at Euros

Beth Mead is proud of overtaking Jimmy Greaves’s goalscoring record for England in a single season and believes the postponement of the Women’s European Championship from last summer has helped her claim a place in the tournament that kicks off on Wednesday.

The Arsenal forward took her international goals tally for 2021-22 to 14 with a brace in the recent 5-1 thrashing of 2017 Euro champions, the Netherlands, surpassing the 13 Greaves scored in 1960-61.

Mead’s form for Arsenal, for whom she contributed 11 goals and eight assists in the Women’s Super League, also cemented her place in the England squad that kicks off the Euros against Austria at Old Trafford, 12 months after the pandemic deferred the event.

The 27-year-old missed out on selection for the 2021 Olympics later last summer but has played her way into Sarina Wiegman’s plans, scoring in the manager’s first game against North Macedonia in September, grabbing a 14-minute hat-trick as a substitute against Northern Ireland in October and helping England hit peak form in the three warmup victories.

Overcoming a seasonal record that has stood for 61 years has only enhanced Mead’s status but she is more concerned about helping one of the favourites to win this summer’s tournament.

“Jimmy Greaves is quite a legend, and a long time it had been held,” she said. “So it’s pretty cool to break that one. I’m proud of that but I’ll look back at it [when I’m retired].

“It was nice to have such an impact and help the team against the Netherlands. I think there’s a lot of competition in the team right now and we’re all pushing each other.”

Mead accepts she might not have made the squad had the tournament been staged last year. “Obviously it was disappointing last summer but would I be the player I am today if that didn’t happen? Maybe not.

“I can control what I can control. I’m enjoying my football, I’m really happy out there on the pitch and again, that is showing in my performances. Hopefully I can bring that into this summer’s Euros.

“I know it’s only been a year but I think I’ve matured as a player. I’ve started to concentrate on myself more. I’ve played with a lot more freedom this year and when I play freely is when I play my best football. I don’t over-complicate anything; I make better decisions.”

Mead, who started against Belgium and Switzerland, came on as a substitute against Wiegman’s previous charges, the Dutch, and 11 of England’s 12 goals in these three warmup games have been scored in the second half.

England’s strength in depth looks the envy of historically bigger nations and such as Mead, Chloe Kelly and Ella Toone often make the difference after cagey openings in which opponents tire.

“Games are over 90 minutes,” Mead said. “Teams are going to be there to frustrate us. But there’s a lot of players that can come on and make a difference and that’s credit to everyone: starters that can wear people down, the subs come on and make a difference and that’s hopefully a big quality that can help us this summer.”