It’s been seven months since the fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup took place, but the quarter finals get underway this weekend - and Arsenal’s Beth Mead is relishing a tie against rivals Tottenham.
Last eight ties were due to be played on March 15, only for the women’s season to be put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. With less financial backing than men’s football, it was a real blow for the female game, but the Women’s Super League returned earlier this month - amid a flurry of new signings from many of the league’s biggest clubs.
Manchester City snapped up Rose Lavelle, Lucy Bronze and Sam Mewis, Chelsea recruited Pernille Harder and Tottenham brought in Alex Morgan, to name just a few of the signings. A deal was also agreed for Vitality to become the new sponsor of the Women’s FA Cup.
US striker Morgan could make her Spurs debut when they travel to face Arsenal at Borehamwood on Saturday - the Gunners have Dutch star Vivianne Miedema in their squad, while Mead looks set to be involved after recovering from a knee injury sustained in February.
The 25-year-old was part of the England squad during a training camp earlier this month, and chats to FFT ahead of this weekend’s North London derby.
It’s been a difficult year for women’s football this year - how did you keep yourself motivated during lockdown, as you made your way back from injury?
I think for the women’s game, it was incredibly difficult. Some clubs from the lower leagues folded, across both the men’s and women’s leagues. I got injured in February, so in some respects it was a blessing in disguise, as it gave me more time to recover.
But at the same time, I was looking to represent Team GB at the Olympics, so I wanted to ensure I was fit for the tournament. That ended up being postponed to next year. We as a society were all placed in the same boat and it was tough for all, but I’m glad that we’re now able to play.
You have a degree in sports development, and it’s not uncommon to see female athletes study or work part time to help support their careers. Do you think that will ever change?
I wanted to study as I’d always wanted to become a PE teacher. I loved the different topics I had to study as part of the course, especially psychology - understanding the mind and how that fits in with being an athlete.
I feel for players who have to work part time along with playing professionally. You would think at this stage that we wouldn’t have to do that, but hopefully in due course, things will change. Everyone should have the opportunity to play full time, even in the lower leagues.
But I also feel that my course helps me understand the game better, through the different sectors I studied. Being in the England camp recently was really good too, as they focus a lot on the mental side of the game. That was an enjoyable camp, considering I’d been out for so long.
Having spent the majority of your career as a number nine, you seem to have settled well as a winger. Your partnership with Vivianne Miedema has flourished - how key is that to the game against Spurs?
Myself and Vivianne have been playing together for a while, so we have a great understanding. Having played that position for the majority of my career, I understand what a number nine looks for - in terms of passes and where the ball needs to go in - so that’s a massive plus. I’ve really come into my own and enjoyed playing as a winger.
This is a North London derby, so we’re ready. It’s obviously not the same without fans - in such a big game we’ll miss that atmosphere, but we have a job to do and we know we’re up against a tough side.
Alex Morgan may make her debut in this game. Along with her, we’ve also seen the likes of Rose Lavelle arrive from the US this summer.
Soccer is massive in America, with a lot of support and backing, so it’s nice seeing our league attract such great players. It will be interesting to see what they think of our way of play and how they adapt. It’s great for the popularity of our league.
We’re all raring to go for this game. We’ve had a good start to the season and are in a really good place. Emotions run high in games like this, but we’re focused and ready to rise to the challenge. We’re here to win cups.
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