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Beth England: Tottenham’s talisman leading the way to FA Cup glory

You could see it. The heavy trudge, the hunched-over shoulders. Beth England no longer felt valued, important, part of the winning side. Her celebrations with the team were muted, less credible.

Chelsea’s frantic extra-time win in the 2022 FA Cup final saw England exit the game before the drama properly began. Previously she would’ve been the player to win Chelsea the cup, haul them over the line – indeed she did in the Blues’ League Cup two years prior. Now however she was condemned to Chelsea’s bench. A lonely fall from grace after the signing of forward Sam Kerr saw England fall out of favour and question her place in football itself.

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Keen to resurrect her stalling career, the 29-year-old switched corners of London at the beginning of January last year in what was a brave, statement move. Quickly hitting 12 goals in 12 appearances, England helped Tottenham escape relegation, instantly rediscovering her form and her love for the game.

She told Sky at the time: “I’d spent quite a large part of the last few years being a bench player. For me, it wasn’t giving me the same feeling and love that I had before so I knew I needed to play. This was the place where I thought I was going to get the best opportunity to showcase what I can bring.

“There were definitely times when I didn’t enjoy it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the team or the staff, the winning part of it was fun, but those are the little things.

“You don’t do that every day, you don’t win titles every day, so it was more the knock-on effect of the everyday of knowing that the minutes aspect of the game was getting less and less, so I needed to make that change.”

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Having missed the beginning of this season through injury, England has again found her clinical edge of late with four goals in her last four games. In the cup too, England scored a last-minute equaliser against Manchester City and scored from the spot in a dramatic shootout to help send Spurs through to the semi-final.

New coach Robert Vilahamn has revolutionised the side who compete for their first FA Cup. Having made England captain, the Swede praised her quality.

“The goals are one thing because we need goals and she’s scored a few games in a row now.

“Then you can look at how she’s getting better and better performing in different roles as well too – sometimes she plays as a right wing, sometimes as a nine.

“It’s only a matter of time before she scores two or three goals in a game,” he told The Sports Gazette.

Vilahamn continued to praise his captain’s leadership: “Every time I speak to her [England], she is present, and she can listen to me and she can use what I am saying on the pitch, and I can get her opinion because she doesn’t lose her presence.”

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England is of course no stranger to the big stage. Having previously played at Wembley and in FA Cup finals, she is perfectly equipped to guide those without her experience through the occasion.

From the league’s best number nine to periphery player, and now the captain leading her side out in front of 90,000, England’s career arc is testament to her robust character.

When Spurs looked to be in the depths, England dug them out. No matter the final score, there’s a pride that Tottenham will feel as a collective. Their rise through the leagues is enviable with just 90-minutes separating them from becoming history-makers.

Author

  • Sam France

    Sam France is an avid tennis watcher and player, frequently found passionately raving about the WTA tour. Interested in all things sport, culture, and politics. A Chelsea fan, who is currently, albeit with significant reservation, trusting an alleged process.