Published 31 July 2022 7 min read
England Women's Senior Team

England's EURO 2022 star Beth Mead shares her grassroots football story

Written by:

Beth Mead

From the pitches of North Yorkshire to becoming EURO 2022 champion, top scorer and player of the tournament at Wembley Stadium, find out how the England forward's love of the game began...

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When I think back to my first footballing memory, I was six years old.

I come from Hinderwell, which is a little village, literally in the middle of nowhere in North Yorkshire.

I had a lot of energy as a kid and because of that, my mum wanted to get rid of some of that energy and decided to take me to a Saturday morning football session on a village field in Hinderwell, which was run by a guy who volunteered.

I went down there one day and he turned around and said to me and my mum: “It’s fine that you’re coming down to get involved but you will be the only girl here. They are quite rough so will she be ok?”

My mum replied: “She’ll be fine,” because she just wanted to get rid of me I reckon. But when she came back an hour later, he basically said I was rougher than most of the boys!

The guy ended up saying: “She’s quite a talented footballer so you’ll probably need to go a bit further afield to have a chance to play somewhere with other girls.”
Beth showed promise as a footballer from an early age, growing up in North Yorkshire
Beth showed promise as a footballer from an early age, growing up in North Yorkshire
The pathway then for girls wasn’t there like it is now, so I had to travel for 45 minutes to Middlesbrough to go to a girls’ team over there called Middlesbrough Academy.

I was a country girl with girls from Middlesbrough town so I was out of my comfort zone and I would cry probably on a weekly basis about going there but you get used to these things and eventually, I got my head around it and enjoyed playing football.

I actually joined a boys’ team after that, California Boys, and I loved every minute of it. There was no judgment and they were great with me from day one. I probably played with them for a couple of years until the age when the ban came in. I then played for the California Girls team and went to Middlesbrough’s Centre of Excellence after that.

I am grateful for that time playing with the boys because my development was further ahead than some of the girls who were in the centre of excellence. I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason and I think that helped me in the development of my football career.

It’s amazing that we have these pathways for the young girls now but some of them maybe don’t get that taste of being able to play alongside the boys. There are pros and cons to it I guess.

I used to play for the club and the Centre of Excellence but then they wanted to develop the best girls in that area so they started to do trials to get in every season. I think I was about ten when I started that, so I left the club to concentrate on it and was at the Centre of Excellence from ten until just under 16, when I joined Sunderland Women from 16 until 21.
Beth pictured with her teammates at grassroots club California Juniors
Beth pictured with her teammates at grassroots club California Juniors
I was lucky when I was young because in the village, my gran lived right next to the park where there was one goal, just the metal goalposts with no net. We would then put the jumpers at the other end for the other goal.

There were also some of those industrial garages where we used to paint a crossbar on it and play headers and volleys with four or five local boys from the village.

My gran always used to say: “The only boys who come to our door are the ones to see if you want to go out and play football.” It was my favourite thing to do at the time.

At school, there was no girls’ teams. I played at my local village school Oakridge Primary for the boys’ team and I was the only girl playing at the time. The more I played though, there were other girls who wanted to join in and we used to play other schools in the area.

There were about four girls who played in the team alongside the boys and I was captain of the primary school team at the time, so maybe that made the other girls feel more comfortable, seeing I had been accepted and made captain.

We went and won the local primary school cup that year with four girls in the team so that is pretty good when you think about it, especially nearly 20 years ago.
06 Jul 2022 10:58

Off the Pitch: Beth Mead


Beth Mead joins Josh Denzel to take a walk around St George's Park and answers some questions, but with one rule - no football chat

I’ve been pretty lucky that I have had a lot of support throughout my career in football. Obviously starting with my mum and dad from day one, with my mum working an extra job to cover the cost of petrol due to us having to drive 45 minutes twice a week at the time. They were, and still are, big people who have influenced my footballing career.

When you talk about the guy in Hinderwell who told me to go further afield and said I have something, would we have done it if he hadn’t mentioned it? He may have been someone who only played a small part but it ended up being a big part in the grand scheme of things.

My centre of excellence coaches - I was maybe not great at coming out of my comfort zone and then got to 16 and was meant to go into senior football but they brought in U17s which would have given me an extra year. Some people at the centre wanted me to stay an extra year because I was a good player for them but my coach at the time said: “You need to move on to develop further.”

It shows how those people care about you and care about your football development. My centre of excellence coach Andy Cook was a big influence on me and Mick Mulhern was the manager at Sunderland who picked me up at 16 and played me from day one, had belief in me and gave me the confidence to do what I did for Sunderland at the time.

But I just loved playing football growing up. When you look at the way things are now, the possibilities are endless for the next generation.
In action for the Lionesses during their win over Switzerland in Zurich ahead of the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 tournament on home soil
In action for the Lionesses during their win over Switzerland in Zurich ahead of the UEFA Women's EURO 2022 tournament on home soil
I often say if you love and enjoy what you do then you can wake up every morning not thinking you are going to work – well that’s me every day!

I don’t feel like I’m going to work. I feel like I did when I used to go up the park to kick a ball around with my mates every day.

So I would say to any young players, just enjoy your football and be willing to work hard. The game is getting a lot bigger and harder to break into but if you are willing to put the work in, then it will be worth it in the end.

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