Beth Mead on her Arsenal return, fan chants and World Cup heartbreak

Beth Mead says she is ‘ready’ for her grand return to the Arsenal stage – as months of injury turmoil finally come to an end.

The 28-year-old ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a Women’s Super League (WSL) defeat to Manchester United last November.

There were hopes she’d be fit for the Women’s World Cup but – like Arsenal teammate Leah Williamson and Chelsea’s Fran Kirby – she was left anxiously watching the games as a spectator.

Mead told Metro: ‘The fans have been incredible since my injury and so have my teammates. But I’ve still missed it all so much.

‘Some of the Arsenal players are coming back in dribs and drabs from the World Cup now, so excitement is properly building now for the new season.

‘I’m back in training and I’m feeling ready. I’m excited to have a full team around me and start afresh.’

Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal side will split their time between the Emirates Stadium andMeadow Park once the WSL season begins.

The Gunners will have their league opener against Liverpool on Sunday, October 1.

Mead hopes to be fit for the match, with the next few weeks of training crucial to build her physical and mental confidence ahead of the game.

She credits the fanbase as being a key driving force ahead of her return to the pitch.

‘They’re the best, they lift us more than they realise,’ Mead continued.

There’s an overflowing songbook of chants for her Arsenal side, which acted as a morale booster for those on and off the pitch during last season.

Mead continues: ‘There’s a new one, but I genuinely can’t remember if it’s even real, or if I made it up in my head or in a dream. It’s about our new signing Amanda Ilestedt from Sweden.

‘I think it goes, “oh Mandy – you came and you made us more Scandi.”‘

Turns out the chant is real – it was penned by fan Joe Louis Monte – and has already been given the seal of approval by Ilestedt herself.

Mead adds: ‘Katie McCabe’s chant – ‘we’ve got McCabe’ – is always a fan favourite as well at games. I’ve got two myself, ‘Meado’ and ‘There is a girl from England, Meado, Meado’.

‘I think they’re both pretty cool, but I am biased.

‘The fans make it so nice for everyone, new players and old, so I’ve no doubt we’ll get a good welcome back.’

Mead’s Arsenal excitement is still tinged with disappointment for her England teammates returning from Australia.

After a crushing 1-0 defeat to Spain in the World Cup final, players took to social media to share their disappointment.

Alex Greenwood, who played on with a bandage around her head during the final vowed that ‘We will be back.’

The 29-year-old defender wrote on Instagram: ‘This one hurts a lot and will for a while.’

Lucy Bronze added: ‘Don’t really have the enough words right now. Thank you to all the fans who have supported us on this journey.’

Mead hopes to speak with the Lionesses individually once they are back and settled on home soil.

She will make clear how big an impact their success had on both players and fans.

Mead continued: ‘From the start, I had every faith the girls would do well. I knew what they were capable of and I wasn’t shocked they reached the final.

‘So Sunday was a really tough one to take.

‘I’m just gutted for them that they fell short at the final hurdle. But they’ve inspired the next generation with getting as far as they did.

‘I’ve left them be at the moment. Sometimes after losses like this you do get bombarded a bit by messages.

‘But in a few days time, once they’ve got back, I’ll reach out and give them all a text.

‘I did put one message in our group chat but, individually, I want to wait until they’ve had time to process what happened.

‘They’ve put their hearts and souls on the line and wanted the win so badly.

‘But I know those girls. When the dust settles they’ll be very proud of what they’ve achieved.’

Mead spoke with Metro from Youngs FC, a club which has recently received a new wave of National Lottery funding.

Young girls had spent the day training in the Monday sunshine, with Mead’s visit in the afternoon kept a secret.

Once the Lioness appeared on the grass, the young players could barely contain their excitement in front of cameras and broadcasters.

‘This feeling will never get old’, smiles Mead after meeting the girls and their coaches.

‘I looked up to Kelly Smith when I was younger and when I first met her, I was so nervous to go up and talk to her.

‘To see young girls who feel the same way about me, or the other Lionesses, is amazing. It’s one of the best feelings in football.

‘I’m just Beth Mead, I’m from a little village in Yorkshire. I never thought this could happen to me.’

Mead highlighted the need for greater investment at a grassroots level and said said demands need to remain high.

She continued: ‘The game is getting a lot better and moving to a new level, but there’s always things we can work on.

‘We have to set our demands high. That’s not because we’re being divas, it’s because we want the best for the game and the next generation.

‘There’s always things we can push for. The girls [other Lionesses] do that internationally at the moment, and we strive to do that domestically as well at Arsenal.’

‘The Youngs FC players are out today having a great time. Events like this highlight the impact of real investment.

‘The National Lottery have provided so much support.

‘£50 million in the last 10 years is incredible and it’s great to see projects like this training up new Lionesses.’

Beth Mead spoke to Metro alongside the National Lottery – in a visit to Youngs FC which also included Wembley hero Sir Geoff Hurst and former England player Anita Asante.

To continue creating more opportunities for women and girls all over the UK to play football, The National Lottery has committed an additional £15 million into the FA over the next four years (2023-2027.)

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