Celebrating Bethany England

by Rachel Cohen (2/4/23)

Above: Tottenham Hotspur striker Beth England. Photo: Spurs Women.

Some strikers score trophy-winning goals. Some strikers score goals that dig out their teams in difficult times.

Perhaps in there is a future in which Bethany England wins trophies at Spurs, but right now, with six games remaining, it looks like her goals might keep the club in the top flight.

Spurs before England

Before England’s arrival, Spurs had not scored for five league games in a row. And as many people have said, you can’t win a game if you can’t score. 

Then in January England came. This was big news. Reportedly the highest ever fee for a within-WSL transfer: £250,000.

England almost perfectly embodies the intersecting grit and glamour of women’s football. In the period when her male contemporaries were in full-time academies, she was playing semi-professional football at Doncaster Belles, and doing night shifts (10pm-6am) in a chip shop in Barnsley.

In the years since England has won titles with Chelsea, played in international and Champions League games, and was voted the WSL Player of the year and PFA Player of the Year in 2020. Her goalscoring record is stellar. Across the eight seasons she has played top-flight football she averages a goal every 120 minutes.

In contrast, Spurs are relative newcomers to top-flight women’s football and a team without starry players.

Scoring Goals

To say that expectations were massive understates it. But England has not seemed even momentarily phased. In the first game, she scored. And then she kept on going, scoring in five of her first six WSL games (six in eight games overall).

Not all her goals have been beautiful. But when you are in a goal drought a tap in from a yard out is beautiful. 

Above: Beth England in the Tottenham huddle after their win over Leicester City. Photo: Spurs Women.

And a couple have been memorable. Against Manchester United, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, down 1-0, England collected the ball at the halfway line, carried it the length of the half, until at the top left corner of the area, she cut inside and switched the ball to her right foot and fired low past United and Lioness keeper, Mary Earps.

The goal, a glorious solo effort, was crowned February goal of the month. But less than two minutes later England’s hard work was undone. Almost from kick-off, United broke down the right crossed inside: an own goal, and a 2-1 defeat. Spurs caught napping.

The problem is that in plugging a hole England revealed another: Retaining the lead. Three games and three lost leads.

And then, England’s fourth league goal, against bottom team, Leicester City, at the time only two points below Tottenham. A game in which the stakes were high, and battles were hard-fought, but there was little quality. Until England’s second-half strike.

The run was almost a replica of her goal against United but shorter, a different keeper to beat, the ball floating upwards this time, bending across goal into the top right corner. Not a surprise to learn that it has been nominated for March Goal of the Month (voting open at time of writing).

And this time finally, for the first time since England’s arrival at the club and since she almost single-handedly re-ignited our scoring, it was not all undone. This time, the North London side held on: 1-0. A win. The first since October.

Even last week. In the hell that was the North London Derby – a game that mainly served to highlight the gap between the teams and deflate any hope Spurs fans had taken from the win against Leicester – England scored. Yes, it was a penalty. But it was a good one. And Spurs missed the last time we were awarded a penalty against Arsenal.

Still on the outside

England left Chelsea to join Spurs because she wanted more game time. No doubt, this was in part because she enjoys being on the pitch. But the more pressing motivator was that she wanted to regain a spot in the Lionesses, after being a non-playing part of the Euro-winning squad and then being left out of the squad in the autumn window at a time when she was a rarely used substitute at Chelsea.

Above: Beth England in possession against Leicester City. Photo: Spurs Women.

Chelsea’s loss was Tottenham’s gain. And while I have previously had bones to pick with Sarina Wiegman, if her non-selection of England motivated the striker’s move to Spurs, every Spurs fan should be grateful.

Yet now, despite the numbers England is putting up since joining Spurs – both in terms of minutes and goals – she remains outside the England squad. When Sarina Wiegman did not select her in February it was speculated that it may have been too soon after she joined Spurs and started getting regular game time. But that cannot be the argument now.

Indeed when asked about it, Wiegman said that: “We chose to select less centre-forwards. The competition in that position is so high so I just chose these two [Rachel Daly and Alessia Russo] and kept it as that.” England has done everything that could have been asked of her and more. But with just months to go, this puts in serious doubt whether she will feature in the World Cup squad.


Meanwhile, Spurs are not over the line. With just five points separating the bottom four (Leicester, Brighton, Reading, and Spurs) at the start of this weekend and with most of these teams yet to play one another, it is not possible to feel any sense of ease.

Spurs remain without a permanent manager, and currently seem wedded to a system that exposes obvious weaknesses (in pace, in midfield progression, in communication).

Talk to fans and you will hear little enthusiasm about the rest of the season.

But if England’s goals are providing Tottenham with moments of magic and the keys to a better place, it feels like it is her will pushing the team on. In a league of bland goal celebrations, England’s are visceral: knee slides and clenched fist roars. Her intensity and hunger reflect, and increasingly fuels, fans’ desire. In a team lacking confidence and making mistakes, conviction matters.

Not that her game is purely instinctual. England’s play is borne of hard work and intelligence. What is more, there are some signs that it is rubbing off. As Spurs’ other players train alongside her, day in day out, little by little their runs, their positioning, their decision making seems to be improving (yup, I’m looking at you Rosella Ayane). Meanwhile, we see moments within games when she creates the space for those around her to be better.

So, let us take a minute, before we embark on the final stages of a painful season, to celebrate Bethany England: A player who creates the space for fans to dream that Spurs will be better, that next season we will properly compete.

This article was originally published at: https://spurswomen.uk/

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