Beth Mead admits not being included in England’s Women’s World Cup squad was “a tough pill to swallow” but is looking forward to cheering the Lionesses on throughout the tournament.
This year’s competition takes place in Australia and New Zealand, with Sarina Wiegman’s side kicking off their campaign against Haiti in Group D on July 22.
England will be without the injured Mead, who won the Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament awards when they won the Euros last summer.
The Arsenal forward is continuing her recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained last November and knew the turnaround to make the squad would be tight.
“When I did my knee I knew time was probably going a little bit against me,” Mead told the PA news agency.
“But it was my motivator through my rehab and I can honestly look myself in the mirror and go ‘I’ve done everything possible to get close to that’.
“Sarina was incredible, in fact she had a lot of conversations with me, kept me in the loop with everything and she said she would’ve loved to have me there, but it was meant to be a bit too soon.
“It was a tough pill to swallow, it’s a big tournament and you want to be there, I was in good form before my injury and you want to continue that into the big tournaments again.
“It wasn’t meant to be this time, I believe everything happens for a reason, but I’m looking forward to watching the girls and being number one cheerleader back home.
“It’s just a little bit of a different role for me this year.”
England’s preparations for the World Cup continued at the weekend as they were held to a 0-0 draw against Portugal, but Mead believes the game has offered more learning opportunities for the team.
“I think that’s why you play these kinds of teams, Portugal are a good team, they have the quality,” she said.
“In these games when it doesn’t go quite right they tampered the systems, tampered with individuals and where they’re playing.
“You learn more from these games than going out there and winning 6-0 or 7-0 so I think it’s good learning and a good pinpoint for them to build on ready to go to the World Cup.”
Mead is an ambassador for the McDonald’s Fun Football programme, the largest grassroots programme in the UK for five to 11-year-olds, where 250,000 children have had access to free football in the last 12 months.
She will be cheering England on from home as she continues to work her way back to fitness in time for the new Women’s Super League season.
The Lionesses star admits there have been “pros and cons” to recovering alongside her partner and Arsenal team-mate Vivianne Miedema, who also sustained an ACL injury just weeks after Mead.
Mead said: “Some days I want to absolutely rip her head off because she’s a pain in the bum and other days we understand what each other’s going through and we can help push each other through.
“I’m a month ahead of Viv, I’ve kind of been there and wore the t-shirt of what she’s doing now.
“I know when there’s days where things become difficult I can help her with or when I know how happy she is.
“She ran for the first time this week and she’s had a few complications so I know how amazing that day felt for her because a month earlier I’d just done it.”
The England forward is now relishing a long-awaited return to football and getting back to work with the Gunners next season.
“It’ll be very exciting to get on a pitch again but I’m excited to play alongside the girls again, getting involved,” she added.
“You find a new appreciation for football when you’ve been kept out of it for nine months.”
::Beth Mead was speaking at the largest ever McDonald’s Fun Football session to celebrate the landmark of over 250,000 children across the UK benefiting from access to free football this season. Sign up to a free session near you at www.mcdonalds.co.uk/football
Published: by Radio NewsHub