BETHANY England admits it took her most of the summer to feel like she ‘deserves’ her European Championship medal, after not playing in the tournament, but now is proud to be ‘part of history’ and wants to make more.
The 28-year-old Chelsea striker, from Kingstone in Barnsley, was part of the England squad that won the Euros on home soil, in front of record crowds in the stands and on TV, but was an unused substitute in every game.
Bethany told the Chronicle: “It took me a long time to feel like I actually deserve a medal.
“I know I was part of it but, for my own ambitions and the way I perceive achievements, I wanted to personally contribute on the pitch.
“It was still an unbelievable experience but also a very difficult one for me.
“After the group games, I got the answers I wanted from the coach and I had to shift my mindset to just preparing the 11 in training, knowing I probably wasn’t going to play.
“But football is a team sport and it’s bigger than just myself. The girls who played wouldn’t have been prepared if it wasn’t for us pushing them in training.
“I am proud to be part of that and a part of history.”
England have been back in action this week. They won 2-0 in Austria on Saturday then 10-0 at home to Luxembourg in Stoke on Tuesday.
Bethany came off the bench in both games, scoring twice in midweek to take her tally to 11 goals in 21 internationals.
England have now qualified for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next summer. Bethany said: “I would like to think I have plenty of years left in me. I am hoping for a good season then hoping to get a better opportunity at the World Cup.
“It will be coming off the back of the men’s World Cup in the winter.
“It’s another big opportunity and fingers crossed I am on that plane.”
Bethany is one of the players vying to replace legendary striker Ellen White who retired after the Euros win.
“There is a lot of competition and Ellen had left a long-standing legacy.
“It will be big shoes to fill. I will just get my head down and put myself in the best position to play more.”
Bethany is now back with her club Chelsea, who start their defence of the Women’s Super League on Sunday.
She has been joined at the Blues by fellow Barnsley woman Lucy Watson, from Royston, a 19-year-old forward who moved from Sheffield United in the summer then went out on loan to second tier Charlton Athletic.
“I sadly didn’t get the pleasure of meeting her because she came in when I was away at the Euros and, by the time I came back, she was out on loan.
“Hopefully Chelsea have signed another good young talent from Barnsley. It would be ideal to have two women from Barnsley in the England team in the future.
“It’s good to see the talent coming through from the area I grew up in.”
Bethany hopes the Euros win will change women’s football in this country. She said: “It was almost a surreal out of body experience running onto that pitch as a European champion.
“It’s been an immense time for the country in terms of finally picking up a trophy.
“We have brought a whole nation together.
“People are much more interested in coming to our games. They sold 90,000 tickets in a day for our next game at Wembley. It’s been overwhelming.
“When I was little, there weren’t many opportunities for girls but now there are a lot more.
“We wrote a letter to MPs about football in schools for girls.
“I think there will be a big shift off the back of the win.”