By Lori Ewing
BURTON ON TRENT, England (Reuters) – Left out of several Lioness sides over the past year and seeing scant playing time in her seventh season with Chelsea, Bethany England saw the writing on the wall.
Her chance to don the England jersey at this year’s Women’s World Cup was in serious jeopardy.
So, despite her aversion to change, the 29-year-old decided to rewrite her story, leaving Chelsea for Tottenham Hotspur in the hope of reclaiming her spot in Sarina Wiegman’s side.
It worked — and she has rediscovered her joy of the game in the process.
“Obviously, it was amazing for me,” a smiling England told reporters at the Lionesses’ first World Cup practice at St George’s Park.
“I think I’ve done everything I could to get put in this position, worked as best I could at scoring the goals, so the question was just left to Sarina.
“I got the call, tried to play nice and cool. But hung up the phone and screamed my house down.”
Whether England got the nod was one of the biggest question marks ahead of Wiegman’s May 31 squad announcement for the fourth-ranked Lionesses, who carry high hopes as European champions into the global tournament that kicks off in Australia and New Zealand on July 20.
“First thing I did was ring my mum, ring my partner,” England said about the good news.
England won nine major trophies at Chelsea and was named Women’s Super League player of the season for 2019-20 but she left for Tottenham in “an overnight decision” on Jan. 4 and finished the WSL season with 13 goals in 14 appearances for Spurs.
“Anything’s a risk in football. I wasn’t getting used (at Chelsea). I was stuck on a bench. And as Sarina said, rightly, I wasn’t getting picked because I wasn’t playing the minutes.
“It was up to me to make sure that I was not only getting the minutes but making the minutes count, and I think I did that at Spurs and I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to go out and play and be happy again.”
England, who has scored 11 goals in 21 international appearances since her debut in 2019, was not picked to attend national training camps late last year and was not in the Lioness squads who won the Arnold Clark Cup in February and the inaugural Women’s Finalissima in April.
“Obviously, at the back of my mind, the World Cup was creeping up,” she said. “Every player wants to be part of these big moments. And ultimately, I knew that I wasn’t happy. I needed to make a change and change can be scary and I’ve never dealt well with change.
“100%, it was a big risk,” she added. “I could have stayed at Chelsea, could have stayed on the bench in my comfort zone. But then I’d have been watching other people going out there to Australia. I’m glad the risk paid off.”
England host 21st-ranked Portugal on July 1 at Milton Keynes and play Olympic champions Canada in a behind-closed-doors friendly on July 15 in Australia. They start their World Cup against Haiti on July 22 in Brisbane.
(Reporting by Lori Ewing, editing by Ed Osmond)
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