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England boss Neville hails Mead’s international bow

Boss praises Arsenal forward after 22-year-old’s international debut in World Cup qualifier in front of more than 25,600 fans

12 April, 2018 — By Catherine Etoe

Beth Mead (right) in action for England. Photo: Silverhub-The FA

ENGLAND boss Phil Neville heaped praise on Arsenal hotshot Beth Mead after handing the 22-year-old her international debut on Friday in a World Cup qualifier against Wales.

The forward, who joined Arsenal from Sunderland in January last year boasting a record of 77 goals in 78 appearances, was thrown into the fray at the Saints’ St Mary’s Stadium with just 10 minutes left on the clock.

And although her darting runs on the wing did not yield a precious goal in the 0-0 draw, her manager was delighted with her cameo performance in front of a raucous crowd of more than 25,600 fans.

“Beth joined up with us with a bit of a knock and I thought she and Mel Lawley (who plays for Manchester City) made an absolutely brilliant impact,” said former Manchester United and Everton defender Neville.

“I like speed in my team and Beth has got a big future within this England camp if she continues the level of performance that she has for Arsenal and in her training with me.”

Remarkably, given her goal-scoring prowess at club level and glittering England youth career, the senior camp was only Mead’s second and she still awaits her full debut.

“It’s a good start,” said the 2016 PFA Women’s Young Player afterwards. “I’m just happy to be in the squad, so to get on was unbelievable and a moment I’ll cherish.

“Phil spoke to me straight away when he took charge and said he liked me as player and I needed to work hard, and it’s nice motivation to hear that from a manager considering I hadn’t heard anything from anyone for two years in the senior game.”

Neville’s faith in the player, no doubt guided by Under-20s coach Mo Marley, was again on display on Tuesday in England’s World Cup qualifier away to Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Possibly with recovery from the knock she had picked up in the recent London derby against Chelsea in mind, Neville gave Mead just half an hour on the field in Sarajevo with the result in the balance at 1-0.

This time, however, she was able to influence the result, winning a stoppage time penalty which ex-Arsenal striker Jodie Taylor dispatched for a 2-0 victory.

It was a welcome win for Neville, who had watched his world No.2 ranked side struggle on Friday against a dogged Wales outfit managed by Arsenal legend Jayne Ludlow.

Despite being ranked 32 places below England, Wales went into the match unbeaten and top of the group, and they refused to lie down for the Lionesses.

Ludlow, who skippered Arsenal to the historic 2007 quadruple, put their display against England down to “Welshness”.

“Jayne had unbelievable passion when she played for the club,” said England and Arsenal star Jordan Nobbs afterwards.

“She definitely made me dig deep when it came to playing for the club and how much pride and passion you should take into wearing that shirt, and she’ll have been exactly the same with her country and that probably showed in some of her players.”

Mead returns to action on Sunday when Arsenal face Everton in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

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