Arsenal and England's Beth Mead on the frustration of being out injured and her battle to make it to Olympics
Watching from the sidelines as England contest the SheBelieves Cup in the United States, Arsenal and England star Beth Mead becomes even more determined to recover from injury.
She sustained medial collateral ligament damage during the Women's Super League 3-2 victory against Liverpool last month.
But knowing she will be off the field for a few more weeks yet, her focus is on making Phil Neville's Team GB squad ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Mead, who has earned 25 caps for England and made 55 appearances for defending WSL champions Arsenal spoke exclusively to NewsChain, about the impact her injury has had and her heartbreak over missing out on the SheBelieves Cup.
The 24 year-old said: "I’m frustrated with how it happened, you know it was an impact injury, something which you can’t really avoid.
"It’s part of football I guess but at the moment I am rehabbing. I would prefer to be away at the SheBelieves but it’s part of football and I’ve just got to suck it up and try and get myself back on the pitch as soon as possible."
But what went through Mead's mind when the injury first happened is something she wouldn't wish upon anyone.
"I knew it wasn’t an ACL injury, but obviously straight away, you think about the rest of the season, the Conti Cup final, Olympic selection... it just pops into your head, in and out very quickly, so yeah, a lot of pain was going through my mind as well."
But luckily Neville was right by her side within 'seconds' to reassure her that there will be plenty of support surrounding her.
"He’s been great with me, I get on really well with Phil and we are quite close in terms of how we speak and keeping each other updated on things.
"So yeah, he came to see if I was ok right away, obviously I was a little upset and seeing him, it makes you think about England straight away and SheBelieves.
"He told me not to worry and whatever the outcome is that he will help look after me. Arsenal have obviously been great as well, it’s nice to have the support from him. I know I’m gutted and I hope he is, that I’m not there.
"The girls and some of the staff have messaged me, it’s a nice feeling for me to know that people kind of miss me I guess."
She is set to see a specialist in the coming weeks and hopes it will be a time when she can be out of her brace and off her crutches. But the timing of her return still remains unclear.
"I mean if you do everything correctly then six to eight weeks is what they generally say. I’m halfway through the process now so hopefully three to four more weeks and then I can be back in action.
"I guess it just depends on what the knee fancies. Unfortunately, we haven’t got X-ray eyes to see through what’s happening, so I will take each day as it comes."
Mead rehabs five days a week in line with Arsenal's training schedule. And whilst she is content with that, she would much prefer to be out in America.
The forward who was part of the title-winning squad last year had full confidence in her Lionesses team-mates to win their first game against the USA last week.
"A lot of the girls have been to the competition before so they know what it takes to win, we showed that last year."
But England's plan failed as they lost 2-0 to the hosts, but they recovered in their second game on Sunday when striker Ellen White scored the only goal of the game against Japan.
"There’s moments in the games where it’s exciting, you know the girls are trying to click and they are trying to do the right things. They are doing what they are told by the manager and I think they would like to be a little more clinical in front of goal.
"They’ve made chances in both games and unfortunately, they haven’t put most of them away, it’s that last bit of ruthlessness.
"The girls will probably think they are not playing the best football but what does perfect football look like these days? I’m sure that they are working hard and to get the best performance out that they possibly can."
The Lionesses are set to play Spain tomorrow evening in their last game of the tournament in Texas. But does Mead believe England have it in them to win?
"Yeah I 100% back the girls to win it against Spain, they are building into the tournament.
"Spain are a great team, a team that keeps a lot of possession on the ball so it means we have to work harder."
And with the Tokyo Games looming - cornoavirus allowing - selection is just around the corner in mid-April.
"It's going to be nerve-wracking but I’m working really hard every day in the gym at the moment and doing every bit and thing that I can, whether it’s nutritional or physical in the gym, treatment, whatever it may be to give me the best chance to be picked for the Olympic squad."
Mead's injury also forced her to miss out on the Gunners' Continental Cup final against Chelsea last month. The final score was 2-1 to the Blues but she believes her side 'deserved to win'.
"I feel we should have won, we deserved the win. Chelsea had two chances and put them away, we had more and didn’t. So yeah, it’s the small margins in football."
Arsenal currently sit third in the WSL behind Chelsea and Manchester City,but Mead says her team are feeling 'optimistic'.
"I mean you never know who is going to drop points in our league, some teams are very tricky to play.
"You never know what could happen so, yeah, I think as a team we are staying optimistic but unfortunately, it’s not in our control."
Arsenal will next face Tottenham in the FA Cup quarter-finals on March 15.
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