Beth Mead: Leaving me out of World Cup was a 'clever decision'

Beth Mead will miss this summer's World Cup - PA Wire/Martin Rickett
Beth Mead will miss this summer's World Cup - PA Wire/Martin Rickett

England forward Beth Mead says it was a “clever decision” by head coach Sarina Wiegman to not include her in the Lionesses’ squad for this summer’s Women’s World Cup, so that she can be firing on all cylinders for next season.

The 28-year-old won the Golden Boot at last summer’s Euros but has not played since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury at the end of November and was always unlikely to be fit in time for the tournament which begins in Australia and New Zealand on July 20.

The Arsenal star says staying at home will be “tough” but she is happy with how Wiegman has handled the matter. Speaking for the first time since the England squad was announced on Wednesday, Mead said the World Cup was just a “little bit too soon”, adding that she was: “Close, but not close enough. I’ve gone in with quite a level head through the whole process, kept in regular contact with Sarina and if I’m given 1% of hope I’ll be motivated to try and get as close to that as possible because that’s the type of person I am.

“Now that’s gone I’m going to be number one fan for England and I’ll be rooting for them every step of the way.”

Mead was speaking at Uefa’s ‘House of WePlayStrong’ pre-match event in Eindhoven, the host city of Saturday’s Women’s Champions League final between Barcelona and Wolfsburg. The European governing body’s event at the city’s Evoluon Centre, close to the Philips Stadion that is staging the final, celebrated current players and legends from across the European women’s game.

Netherlands-born Wiegman will also be at the final in her home country on Saturday, and Mead said of her England head coach: “I’ve just seen her this morning actually. Obviously she spoke to me two or three weeks ago and, as much as we’d both love for me to go [to the World Cup], I think a decision for what I put forward was that I want to play my best football, which right now I probably won’t go to a World Cup and do that because I’ve not had the opportunity to play minutes enough. As a player that is tough, because if I had gone people would have expected me to be at my best level and probably right now it’s not feasible for me to do that.

Bukayo Saka chats to Beth Mead of Arsenal during the Arsenal training session at London Colney on February 10, 2023 in St Albans, England - Getty Images/David Price

“Sarina laid it out, I’m in her future plans, she wants me fit, she doesn’t want to risk me at a certain level and for my ACL to go again, because I’m at a higher risk to do it again. So I think it was a clever decision in the end.

“I’m doing really well. I’m kicking a football again, so I’m actually a footballer. I’m pretty much doing everything, bar contact, so I’m in a really good place, it was obviously just a little bit too soon for the World Cup.

“At the moment I’m nearly at the end of a big block of rehab training, and then I’m allowed a couple of weeks off to go on holiday, refresh, spend a bit of time with my family, and then I’ll spend most of my rehab at Arsenal this summer after my holiday, so I should be ready for pre-season, to then start the season again, so I want to put myself in a good space.”

“I set myself that [World Cup] goal, I didn’t get there and my new goal is to be in the best position possible for pre-season, feel good to start the season and the one thing that I take out of not going to the Olympics was I got a good pre-season and probably played my best season on a football pitch, so you can always make a positive out of something and that’s what I’m very good at most of the time.”

Two of Mead’s England team-mates could be involved in Saturday’s final for their club Barcelona, with midfielder Keira Walsh and right-back Lucy Bronze both hoping to win the Champions League with the Catalan club. Their opponents Wolfsburg knocked out Mead’s Arsenal in an closely-fought semi-final.

Mead added: “You look at how amazing the [Arsenal] girls did considering the circumstances [injuries] throughout the year and it’s annoying that we’re very close, there’s just a few things that we need to figure out and the end of the season probably came at a good time for us as a team. Now we get a chance to reset, hopefully the girls have an amazing World Cup and come back fit. All the players, most of the players that are injured will come back and hopefully we can make some good additions that could take us to that next level. It’s very close.”