Sunderland striker aiming to be the next Jamie Vardy as she chases England breakthrough

Beth Mead is determined to prove herself the Jamie Vardy of the Women's Super League as she seeks the international breakthrough that Leicester's England striker has achieved.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 09:26 am
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2016, 09:31 am
Beth Mead (right) celebrates scoring for Sunderland Ladies

The 20-year-old Sunderland Ladies forward was the leading scorer in WSL1 last season and began this campaign with a strike in her first league match, a 1-1 draw with Reading.

But on Monday she was left out of England's squad for the Euro 2017 qualifiers against Belgium and Bosnia, a familiar scenario for the Whitby-born youngster that is arguably puzzling too.

It is not as though Mead is short of admirers, even within the England camp.

England assistant coach Marieanne Spacey likes what she sees, and manager Mark Sampson is keenly monitoring her performances.

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"She scores goals, and it's important that she had a really good season last season," said Spacey.

"We talk about sustaining form and what does success look like.

"The character of a goalscorer is consistency and it's every season - can you put the ball in the back of the net?

"People will be a bit more aware of her now so there'll be a different challenge for her this season, so it's how she manages that challenge as a player and as a person, and if she's scoring goals this season we'll say that yes she's got a chance."

Sampson has called Mead into his squad before, for a closer look, and come next year's European Championship in Holland she could be a regular.

Vardy was only on the fringes of England selection 12 months ago, but looks sure to go to Euro 2016 with Roy Hodgson's team after scoring against Germany and Holland in back-to-back internationals.

Mead's 12 goals in 14 games last season came in Sunderland's first season after promotion, and included a hat-trick against champions Chelsea.

Taking the staggering achievement of Leicester's title-chasing men as inspiration, Sunderland see no reason why they should not challenge the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City at the top of WSL1 this year.

"It's not impossible. Last season we were top of the league at one point but faded out at the end unfortunately," Mead told Press Association Sport.

"I don't see why not. We have some Vardys and Mahrezes in our team so I don't see why we can't give it a go.

"I'll take being the Vardy of the team.

"Defenders are going to know about me this season, I've got to adapt my game and prove my point again. I don't want to show that I'm a one-season wonder.

"I want to come out again and be the name that everyone's looking at again. It's going to be tough but I'm willing to work hard and get myself in the England squad eventually."

Her club manager, Carlton Fairweather, will be a familiar face to many from Wimbledon's 'Crazy Gang' days.

A winger in his playing days, Fairweather set up a host of goals for the likes of John Fashanu and Alan Cork.

He should know what constitutes a potent striker, and in Mead he believes Sunderland have a player who can climb to the top of the game.

"That for Beth is the challenge - can she now get into the England squad?" said 54-year-old Fairweather.

"For her to do that she'll have to achieve a similar feat to last year and that's a positive challenge to keep her going.

"She's a quick player and a clever player as well and those attributes are going to help any footballer.

"It's great she's got the goals she's got. Now the challenge is to target getting into the England set-up and playing a game."