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From shifts at the chip shop to heroics in a Cup final – Bethany England's career is in overdrive

Calls for England to lead the line for national team after dominant season with Chelsea

Bethany England of Chelsea celebrates after scoring her team's second goal during the FA Women's Continental League Cup Final Chelsea FC Women and Arsenal FC Women at City Ground on February 29, 2020 in Nottingham, England
Bethany England (left) scored both goals for Chelsea in their victory over Arsenal  Credit: Catherine Ivill

When Leah Williamson skidded to pull Arsenal level with six minutes of normal time remaining in Saturday's Continental Cup final, Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert snatched her team-mate Bethany England and hissed: “Just bring it. I know you have got something else in you.” 

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appEarlier, when the game was six minutes old, England had swivelled in the box to snaffle a loose ball and slot it into the far corner. That was four minutes quicker than she had broke the deadlock against the same opponents last month, when Chelsea dismantled their title rivals 4-1 for a Women’s Super League double. 

Eighty six minutes after that first goal, England appeared at the back post, like a cartoon villain leaping unseen from the tall grass, and finished another chance, created by the combination of Cuthbert and Sam Kerr that has helped to make Chelsea the only team still unbeaten in the league. 

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app“[Cuthbert] keeps saying it in the shower: she knew something was coming,” England said after the game. “Even at such a late equaliser, we had that belief. We couldn’t have lasted probably another 30 minutes with all the pressure Arsenal were putting on us, so we knew it was now or never.” 

Chelsea's manager, Emma Hayes, has always insisted there are “no superstars here” when asked to assess just how much of a coup the Australian Ballon D’or nominee Sam Kerr was for the club when she arrived on these shores earlier in the season2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app. Hayes’ mantra is that Kerr is a “wonderful individual who will fit into the team”, but it is probably more accurate to say that rather than there being no superstars there are simply too many to list.

England was Chelsea’s top scorer last term but this time her burgeoning partnership with Kerr — whom Hayes estimates is still only playing at “60 per cent” of her true capacity — has taken her to a new level. There is merit to the calls for Phil Neville, the England manager, to build the national team around England. 

At which point it is worth remembering that it very nearly wasn’t this way. Balancing her early career at part-time Doncaster Belles with college, England worked two jobs — in a fish and chip shop and at Marks and Spencer — to make ends meet. She played some matches having snatched just three hours’ sleep the night before. In 2016, she signed for Chelsea, then the reigning champions, but was loaned to Liverpool in her second year. For another player, that could have spelled the end. 

“Everyone’s journey is different,” England said. “I can’t say mine has been easy. It’s just been a long old roll: just putting myself out there, trying to prove myself. I have always been a grafter. My parents brought me up to never give up and be a worker. Thankfully, I’m getting results for that, and Emma is showing faith in me leading that frontline as a nine.” 

Did she always feel she would make the grade at Chelsea? “I think at times, probably no. A lot of people that know me know my confidence was always [something] I did battle with. I have had a lot of people and help to try and boost that. Thankfully, I am in a position now where I am much more grown up, I would say, mentally as well as physically. I’m used to the game and how it is changing. The faith Emma is putting in me to lead that frontline is a testament to that in itself. I am thankful to be at this club and play for this team.”

Saturday's double took England to 21 club goals in all competitions this season. She has now, arguably, eclipsed Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema as the most-feared striker in the WSL. 

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app“I love the story because she had to earn it,” said Hayes. “There was absolutely no way I was going to give it to her easily. No way. She will tell you that, I’m sure. 

“There’s nothing more joyful when a player, [where] you don’t really know if they are going to be able to cut it at the top level, gets their head down and puts everything into their career. The talent was always there but now you are starting to see the fruit of hard work and perseverance. 

“I really think England have got a player that can add something to them going to the next stage. She’s really a credit to herself and her family.”

From shifts at the chip shop to heroics in a Cup final – Bethany England's career is in overdrive