Bethany England: The journey from a chippy in Barnsley to UEFA EURO 2022
Many of the younger players in the England squad have come through a club’s academy system before going on to turn professional in their teens.
But for the likes of 28-year-old England, their career has transcended a remarkable rise in the women’s game, where the players initially needed part-time jobs to live out their dream of playing top-level football.
England may have been starring for Doncaster Belles in the inaugural FA Women’s Super League in 2011, but the teenager also had to balance her A-Levels and working part-time in her local fish and chip shop.
England and her twin sister Laura worked in the Wellington Street chippy in Barnsley from the age of 17 until shortly before her 20th birthday.
And England explained: “I ended up working for three-and-a-half years in a chippy, doing night shifts on a Friday and Saturday. It would start at around 10pm and finish at 5am to 6am. I would then have a couple of hours sleep and go straight to my football game, and then do the night shift whilst I was at college.
“You'd be surprised how many people want fish and chips after a night out! It’s not for me.
“But it paid me through college, it paid for my driving lessons and everything. So, it got me where I needed to be.
“I've done all sorts. I've worked in a bakery, a factory, I've worked at M&S and I've worked in an Indian.”
How it started 🙈 How it’s going 😁— Bethany England (@Bethany_Eng15) October 12, 2020
(Baby De Bruyne) (Looks like a girl) pic.twitter.com/9lFGWNEXTc
England’s time working in the fish and chip shop hasn’t stopped her from enjoying the odd chippy when allowed and confirmed she can indeed batter a mean fish and chips.
“As a Yorkshire girl, I love gravy but from a chippy, I actually prefer curry,” she said, before adding: “I did either service or frying. At Easter time, we used to fry Creme Eggs. You couldn't get battered
Mars Bars and Snickers but we used to batter Creme Eggs. It sounds nasty, but you'd be surprised. It's alright.”
England was born and raised in Barnsley, not leaving the town until she was 18.
Growing up, the twin sisters spent a lot of time at their Grandma’s house where they met their friend Josh, who asked the pair to join his grassroots team Junior Tykes.
Losing their first match by more than 20 goals did not stop the Englands’ love of the game and after three years with Junior Tykes, the sisters were asked to play for Sheffield United’s centre of excellence.
They progressed to United’s Academy at 13 and remained there until they were 16.
Whilst Laura decided to opt for athletics and the javelin, which she competed in internationally and trained alongside the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Beth moved to Doncaster Belles.
England quickly broke into the first team whilst still 16 and was part of the side when the FA Women’s Super league was launched as a semi-professional league in 2011.
The prolific striker averages almost a goal every two games for her country, with nine in seven starts and 12 substitute outings, and she has also been an integral part of the all-conquering Chelsea team.
“My life is massively different now,” England said. “I get a good night's sleep now I'm not having to do night shifts!
“But yeah, I'm in a very fortunate position where I get to do the job that I love every day. I have good people around me and I'm able to balance work life and personal life.”
When asked if the start to her career has helped her as a player and provided a reality check every now and again, England replied: “100 per cent. I think the youth coming through these days won't realise how much people had to work to get to where they are.
“I know there was a time where I think I was basically paying to go to football, not football paying me.
“I remember even when I was at Doncaster Belles, I'd get paid like £150 a month or something which wouldn't even cover my fuel driving back and forth the four or five times a week.
“So yeah, I think it is a reality check but it also humbles you knowing that the way the game is growing and the way the investments are going in women's football now, it needed to be done then in order to achieve what we've got now.”
Episode 8 | Lionesses Live connected by EE
Alex Greenwood and Ellie Roebuck join Joelah Noble in the latest episode of our daily show for EURO 2022
England’s form in the Barclays Women’s Super League over the years has seen her widely recognised as one of the best strikers in the division.
But with her maiden Lionesses outing not coming until after the 2019 World Cup, this summer’s EUROs is the striker’s first major tournament at senior level.
“Do you know what, I've worked so hard that part of me thought it probably wouldn't ever come?” England said.
“I have no shame in saying that when Sarina did tell me I got picked I did cry. I think it was just a flood of emotion on top of the season and how this season's gone for me.
“I think everyone's path and journey is different here and I think timing is everything. Probably in 2019, I was still younger and maybe I wasn't as ready as I thought I was. And obviously, now I feel like I am ready.
“So, even though I'm probably a bit of a late bloomer to everyone else, the fact that I'm here means I feel very lucky and privileged that the hard work I've put in has paid off.”
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