After more than two years of trying to bring her to North London, Arsenal finally got their woman when Beth Mead joined the club from Sunderland in January. The 22 year old left the Black Cats having notched 77 goals in 78 appearances. Mead won the Golden Boot in the 2015 WSL season with 12 goals in 14 games- almost twice as many as Natalia Pablos and Jess Clarke in second place, who each netted 7 times during that campaign. Beth was also voted PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year in 2016.
Mead resisted an offer from Arsenal in 2015 to finish her university degree in Sports Development. I spoke with her minutes after the Gunners’ 3-0 win over her former club and the Whitby born forward admits it was strange to play against Sunderland for the first time, “It was a bit strange. I was injured for the Spring Series game, so it’s the first time I’ve ever played against them. So it was a bit weird for me at first, but it was lovely to see some old friends again.”
Mead’s links with Sunderland go a little beyond turning out for the team. While she was busy banging in goals for the Black Cats, Mead was also pulling pints at her local pub. The landlords had sponsored her during the formative years of her career and Beth repaid the favour by working shifts behind the bar.
“There were some people there that were really good to me early in my career and they really helped get my career going, so I used to work there Friday and Saturday nights. I’m still in touch with the owners even though I live down here now.” So at one point, Mead was scoring the goals that secured Sunderland promotion to WSL1, whilst studying for a degree and working as a barmaid.
After a first half where the Gunners missed a host of presentable chances, 3 second half goals eventually secured a comfortable 3-0 win over Sunderland, with goals from Louise Quinn, Vivianne Miedema and fellow ex-Black Cat Jordan Nobbs. Arsenal have endured a rocky start to the season, particularly at home, but Mead insists confidence was not an issue at half time with the scores still level.
“Deep in your mind, there is always that fear, but it’s certainly not something the girls talked about. We knew we were going to keep making chances and it was just a case of finishing them better, which we managed to do in the end. With the players we have, you always think we’re likely to score.”
Earlier in the day, Chelsea dropped points for the first time this season in a 2-2 draw with an eye catching Reading side. Arsenal are playing catch up with City and Chelsea as they eye one of the two Champions League slots. The Gunners, who won the competition in 2007, have not featured in Europe’s premier tournament since 2014 and Mead admits that qualifying again is a big target for this campaign.
“We’ve not been in the Champions League for a while now and that’s what people know Arsenal for- playing in the Champions League and winning trophies. Our focus is absolutely on finishing in the Champions League spots and continuing to win games as we did today.” Beth broke her arm in the spring, limiting her appearances in the Spring Series, but she has been in a regular feature in the forward line this season, albeit occasionally from an unfamiliar wide left berth.
“It’s been different for me, I’ve had to adapt to different roles at times because I’ve pretty much always played as a number 9. I’m just so happy to be on the pitch playing regularly and I want to continue to do that,” she reflects. With the likes of Vivianne Miedema, Dan Carter, Lisa Evans and Jodie Taylor vying for those forward roles, it’s no mean feat to regularly start matches in this Arsenal forward line. With 5 goals in her last 5 appearances, Mead is earning her stripes.
🎥 Take a closer look at Beth Mead's second penalty of the night v London Bees ⚽️Was she aiming for us? 🤔 😅
Posted by Arsenal Women on Friday, 13 October 2017
Beth talks about striking the balance between competition for places and developing combinations “We’re working well in our partnerships and we’re developing that, but also we keep each other competitive and we make each other better players by competing for places.” The players will also be kept firmly on their toes by the arrival of new manager Joe Montemurro from Melbourne City, who will officially take charge in the next few weeks.
Mead says the squad are looking forward to the Australian’s arrival. “We’ve heard things here and there, but we’re all excited for him to come in and see what his vision is. It’s something new for all of us, a new chapter for the club that will freshen things up. Things weren’t really working before and we’ve heard great things about Joe, so hopefully he can come in and help us turn things around and win trophies.”
Arsenal aren’t the only team on the cusp of a new era. England will appoint a new manager imminently and Mead says getting back into the squad and playing in the 2019 World Cup is another of her big goals. “I’m doing my best to push my way back in. The World Cup in 2019 is a realistic goal for me. Hopefully I can get involved during the qualifiers if I deserve to be.”
If Beth’s career to date has shown us anything, it’s that she rarely errs when presented with a goal.
You can follow Beth on Twitter @bmeado9