Beth Mead was injured in a game against Liverpool (PA Images)
04 January 2020

Arsenal and England's Beth Mead on why the WSL just gets better and better and how the Arsenal men are among their greatest supporters

For Arsenal, the mid-season break brought an unwelcome interruption to a winning run that left them in familiar territory at the top of the WSL table.

But for star striker Beth Mead, injured in the match against Everton just before Christmas, it was a chance to work on her recovery ahead of the league's resumption against Birmingham at home this weekend.

And there is good news for Gunners fans after the 24-year-old England international told NewsChain that she's been back on the field after rehab and will be in the squad for tomorrow.

In an exclusive interview she also talked about how much more competitive the WSL has become and what fantastic support she and the rest of the team get from the Arsenal men as they go for back-to-back titles.

She said: "We have been putting some great performances out there as a team. It’s been enjoyable to play and I think most of the girls will probably say the same. We seem to be flowing and scoring a lot of goals which is always nice.

"[To win] back to back is a big statement. We've got the quality of playing and for us as a team and as a club it would be huge."

"The [WSL] knows it is compulsory for the teams to be full-time professionals which has brought the league up a hell of a lot."

In terms of the competitiveness in the league, she continued: "You can’t take any game lightly, but the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City are probably the two big teams that you kind of look forward to playing, but then you don’t. You just have to be on the ball when you play everyone at the moment."

Beth Mead (right) believes maintaining attendances at league games is important to keep the momentum of the women's game going (PA Images)

The women's World Cup in France during the summer has boosted coverage and interest across the globe and Mead has noticed a world cup bounce in the WSL. 

But she says that there are still 'a lot' of barriers that need to be broken down, in terms of getting fans to watch games consistently. 

"I mean luckily we are getting a bit more exposure now, we are on TV regularly, they’ve obviously brought the FA player app out. It’s really helpful for people who want to get a little taster of watching the games without having to leave the house. 

"I think in the league, as individuals and as teams we are putting ourselves out there and showing what we are about as female professional footballers."

The huge surge of popularity in the women's game is still years away from being on a par with the men, but Mead is quick to point out how well the men's and women's teams integrate at Arsenal.

"We have got a really good relationship with the men, they fully back us. I mean we are very important to the club. 

"We obviously train at the same facilities, we have got access to multi-million pound equipment and gyms. We have lunch and everything and train on the pitches. We have a good relationship with them and even speaking to the men generally in passing is always nice and pleasant. 

"Some of the men wish us luck for games. It’s nice to just be a little bit normal, it’s not sort of separated. 

"I think it’s important because obviously with the female clubs moving forward and moving into that next level."

One element which does separate the men and women's game is the contact time between players and fans. Mead believes that the women's game is 'special' because of the interaction with the fans. 

"We owe a lot to the fans. A big and special thing about the women’s game is that we do interact a lot with fans and people after the games. 

"Obviously we want the game to get bigger and play in bigger stadiums and there is a lot more people there, logistically, us players can’t get round everybody. But it’s a good atmosphere for people to come and feel a little bit more involved with the players."

In the first half of the WSL 2019/20 season, Mead was part of the team that made history on two separate occasions. Firstly in November when Arsenal played Spurs in front of WSL's highest attendance record of 38,000 people at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium. 

And then the Gunners posted the  WSL's highest victory when they won 11-1 against Bristol City at Meadow Park, a day Mead describes rather underwhelmingly as 'enjoyable'.

The injury against Everton naturally worried Mead as soon as it happened.

"A lot of things went through my head. There was a lot of pain at first but then things go through your mind like ‘have I broken it or done anything to my ligaments'.

"With the Team GB stuff coming up and the Olympics, you obviously want to be in the firing line of Phil Neville [England's manager]. Obviously I had a little bit of a panic as it was pretty painful."

England women return to training at the end of February and being part of an Olympic Games would be a 'dream come true'.

First up though, it's Birmingham tomorrow, and all about the three points to stay top of the WSL.

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