Beth Mead is hoping to make her mum proud by making her long-awaited return in an England shirt when the Lionesses face the Netherlands at Wembley.
Mead last featured in an England shirt in November 2022, but suffered a dreaded ACL injury later that month. The winger tragically lost her mum, June, to ovarian cancer in January 2023.
The Lionesses face arguably their most important fixtures against the Netherlands and Scotland in two must-win games in order to reach the Nations League finals and qualify for Paris 2024, having suffered crushing losses to the Netherlands and Belgium to leave them third place in Group One.
Facing the Netherlands on Friday at Wembley Stadium, with over 75,000 tickets sold, Mead is hoping that she will be able to make an appearance and help the squad earn a much-needed win to boost the hopes of qualifying for the next Olympics.
"I think last time I got a chance to play there [at Wembley], my mum was still here," she said. "So that’s difficult for me to think about sometimes but it also makes me very proud to try and make her proud as well. Fingers crossed I can get on the pitch and make her proud again."
Being back in the England setup for the first time in over a year, Mead revealed she had been "smiling like a Cheshire Cat" since arriving at England's training facility on Monday morning.
"I've worked hard, I've had a lot of tough days in between that time and I'm just super proud of myself and being able to get back into the fold and hopefully help the team at some point," she said of her return to England.
"But the bad days feel still so much better now that I'm here and I'm back on the pitch and I'm doing what I love doing again. I'm very proud of what I've overcome in that time."
Mead made her return to the pitch in Arsenal's WSL win over Aston Villa where her appearance off the bench lifted the Gunners to a 2-1 comeback. Making four appearances off the bench and two starts, Mead scored a brace against West Ham over the weekend to celebrate her recall to Sarina Wiegman's squad.
"I hope I can help the team in whatever way I can and still do what I've always done on and off the pitch to the best of my ability and hopefully I can help during the camp at some point," she continued.
"Each game I've been playing at the moment I've been feeling more confident, like myself again, realised I've still got a left foot sometimes so that was great."
Mead, who missed the 2023 Women's World Cup alongside teammate Leah Williamson, admitted watching the team come so close to the ultimate glory was tough to take.
"Throughout the tournament me and Leah were sat watching games, we were still very emotionally and physically connected, watching every game," she said.
"I felt for the girls after the game. I was devastated for them when we fell short in the final. I know how that feels to fall just short in a competition such as a World Cup, being in the semi-finals in 2019.
"It was a tough watch but I was still so proud and proud to be English watching them in that tournament."
Overcoming adversity in the past year has strengthened Mead's mentality to be able to handle all life has thrown at her recently.
"Growing up, I think a lot of my family members said I was quite a faint-hearted person and I would say I was mentally quite weak growing up," she confessed.
"I think nothing in life is ideal but I'd like to think the things I've dealt with have made me a stronger and better person and whether that be as a team-mate, as a partner, as a sister, as a new dog mum."