Is Sunderland striker Beth Mead a future England star?

By Stuart DickBBC Newcastle
Beth Mead
Mead has represented England at Under-19 level

Meet Beth Mead, one of the most prolific strikers in English domestic women's football over the last three years.

The 19-year-old Sunderland Ladies striker has scored 66 goals is 68 appearances in two-and-a-half seasons, including 13 in 17 in this season's FA Women's Super League 2.

Logically, Mead's next step is the top flight, and she could get there with the Black Cats, who need just five points to seal promotion this term.

"I've spoken to some of the (FAWSL 1) managers but they know at the moment I'm doing well at Sunderland," she told BBC Newcastle.

"Maybe at the end of the season I might get a few calls, but we will see where Sunderland end up.

"You can tell the difference between us and the teams in the top league. They are training every day, with the likes of Jordan (Nobbs), Jill (Scott) and Steph Houghton going full-time, and it has helped them develop their careers a lot.

"I would like to be in that position as well."

Mead on playing alongside boys
"Playing with the boys helped me develop a lot quicker. I was scared of the girls more than the boys when it came down to it."

Mead showcased her talents at the recent U20 World Cup in Canada, scoring a wonder goal that upped her profile and was widely shared on social media.

"I didn't realise it would be as big as it was, but I'm glad about what it did for women's football and how it helped promote the game more," she explained. "It was mental, the response I got from the goal.

"It just felt right when I went to hit it, and obviously I hit it well and it went in the top corner."

With England honours at U15, U17, U19 and U20 level, Mead is now waiting for a senior call-up from national boss Mark Sampson.

"Mark has shown that if you're on form he will pick you in any league - Fran Kirby (Reading striker) has just got in and she is in FAWSL 2. She's on fire at the moment," said Mead.

"If he thinks you've got the talent and he thinks you can do a job in his team he'll pick you at any age."

Beth Mead
Mead in action in an England U19 friendly against Germany last year

Like Rachel Yankey, Jordan Nobbs and Steph Houghtonexternal-link, the Whitby-born forward started her football career when her mother took her to a boys' Saturday morning training session.

Aged 10, Mead went on to join the California Girls side, but continued to play along with the boys as well, and eventually came to the attention of the Middlesbrough Centre of Excellence.

"I started out with a boys' team, and played for them until I wasn't allowed to anymore. Playing with the boys helped me develop a lot quicker.

"I was scared of the girls more than the boys when it came down to it."

Mead made her way through the age groups at Middlesbrough, and in 2010 she showed up on England's radar, earning England caps at both U15 and U17 level.

"It was a bit surreal - at that age I'd never thought I would be playing at an international standard," she said.

"I'd started playing well for the Centre of Excellence and obviously England scouts came to watch some games and I impressed them.

"I went to a one-day camp and did really well, I scored four goals in one game, so from there it just took off."

Mead's goal record
66 goals in 68 games for Sunderland Ladies10 goals in 23 games for England at youth level

In 2011, FA Women's Premier League champions Sunderland soon came calling, and Mead was thrust straight into the starting line-up, notching 23 goals in as many games, finishing as top scorer in the Premier League and helping secure Sunderland the league and cup double.

She followed her debut season with an even better second campaign, netting 30 times in 28 appearances on the way to another golden boot and league title.

Further international recognition followed, with a call-up for the European Under-19 Championships.

"I think that was the making of my England career," concluded Mead. "In qualifying we got beaten in the first game by Serbia, but from then until the final we hadn't been beaten or conceded a goal, so I think that was just a great thing for the team."

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