Chelsea, NHS workers and WSL: Bethany England interview

May 06, 2020

As a footballer, and especially as a striker, it is clear how much value Bethany England places on scoring goals but that pales into insignificance compared to what her family is currently experiencing.

That is because her mum is working for the NHS and is part of a team that ensures coronavirus testing is taking place.

"She works with the virology team at Northern general Sheffield hospital," England says.

"She gets sample kits that have been tested for covid-19 and will take them back to labs and go through the process of getting people tested.

"I think they have the capacity to test around two or three thousand samples a day, but with the equipment they had were only able to do about four or 500."

England has raised over £1000 for NHS charities by auctioning a pair of boots worn as she scored twice when Chelsea won the Continental Cup in February.

"As we've seen on the news, we've gone past the peak of it and I know from my mum they're not getting as many positive samples which is great because lockdown has obviously been effective," she says.

"I clap every Thursday and it makes you realise how important they are to society. Hopefully after this, they start to get the respect and the pay they deserve."

England has remained in London for lockdown to continue her rehab from the ankle injury that kept her out of England's final SheBelieves game against Spain.

From baking chocolate fudge cake to catching up with Chelsea team-mates in the weekly video call there has been enough to keep her occupied.

She adds: "Thankfully I've got my dog Buddy so I've been spending a lot of time walking him. He's a golden retriever and has just turned 10 months old. He's loving life!

"I think I'm into week seven now on my own, apart from the dog! It is difficult as I'm a social person but it's obviously a good thing that I don't see my mum but we are still able to talk on video calls, and keep in touch with friends."

'Roman Abramovich has looked after all the staff'

Chelsea players have not been furloughed under the government scheme and they have been consulted along the way as all industries await instruction on moving to the next stage.

"Roman Abramovich has looked after all the staff. He has been phenomenal and what he's done for the NHS as well," England says.

"We still don't know a great deal and there are conversations going on behind closed doors that need to be discussed.

"Obviously they're taking into consideration how the players feel about the situation but it's out of our hands and we're leaving it to the people that are best placed."

So what impact could coronavirus have on women's football?

"I think AFC Fylde abandoning their women's team was a big shame and unfortunately I've no doubt that there may be other teams that end up folding due to this crisis which will affect a lot of people in terrible ways," she says.

"It's going to be a big challenge for clubs to find the resources to turn themselves back round from this and that is the sad reality of it. I'd like to hope that most teams can survive and we get through it.

"There are obviously going to be different measures (in place). Are we going to be able to eat in the same place, shower in the same place, doing gym work in certain areas?

"No matter how soon or how long that will be there will be restrictions in place and I think it will take a long time before things can go back to what counts as normality for a lot of teams."

In the meantime, a fitness regime and injury recovery is keeping Chelsea's No 9 focused.

"I think it's the fear of the unknown which is the worst part but at the end of the day our job is to be fit and ready for whenever we're called upon," she says.

"We don't know what's going on in other people's families with how this virus is affecting them personally. So I think most players are just trying to keep on top of their fitness until they've got an idea of what's happening.

"As we've all said during this time the most important thing is safety and health, not putting anyone at risk that we don't need to."

Chelsea were a point behind Manchester City with a game in hand when football was suspended and had been well positioned to make it a memorable finale.

"I'd love to finish the season, knowing that we were on course to do really well," England says. "We'd already secured one trophy and this was a season that we really felt like we were going to go and get the treble.

"Personally, I don't want all my goals to be voided because it's been the best season I've had but we can only return if it's safe for everyone."

Before the stoppage, she was locked in a battle for the WSL golden boot with Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema on 14 goals each. England has also been nominated for league player of the year.

"There are some unbelievable players in this league and even to be included the vote in for such things is a big honour. I'm proud of the way the team has gone about things the season," she says.

"I'm taking shots from 20 or 30 yards that I'd never taken before my life so my confidence has grown. I think I've definitely grown up a lot."

It is a world away from leaving Chelsea on loan for Liverpool and believing her career in west London was over.

"At the time it felt like the end of the world. It was as if Chelsea didn't want me and didn't think I was good enough. I can appreciate the club had a lot of great experienced players with Gemma Davison, Eni (Aluko) and Fran (Kirby).

"It was a tough team to try and break into at that age having not played much at that level. That loan spell at Liverpool did make me rather than break me.

"I've always said that Liverpool's got a special place in my heart for that and the way that Scott Rogers, the manager at the time, helped me through that period as well."

She is now setting her sights on more international ambitions when football returns.

"The biggest honour is to wear the badge and play for your country," she says. "On a stage like SheBelieves, seeing how America played and also getting to be a part of the Japan game makes you hungrier.

"The next few years are crucial with an Olympics, a home Euros and another World Cup. My goal is to be in a position that I'm still peaking and being in contention for these tournaments. It's why we do this."

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