Bethany England interview: 'I do a good fish and chips - at Easter we would fry Creme Eggs'

England's path to being an international striker started with night shifts in a Barnsley chippy and £150 per month from Doncaster Belles

Bethany England has played her way into the England squad Credit: GETTY IMAGES

With a CV that includes stints working in a bakery, an Indian restaurant and night shifts in a chippy, Bethany England is no stranger to hard graft. This summer, that teenager who was once deep-frying Creme Eggs until 5am to pay her way through college can now, at 28, add 'England striker at a major international tournament' onto that tasty career path.

The Chelsea striker has been picked for July's home Euros - no great surprise after she enjoyed the highest goals-per-90-minutes ratio of any English forward in the Women's Super League last season. But it was a distant dream a decade ago when she says she was earning merely around £150 a month playing for Doncaster Rovers Belles, prior to the WSL becoming fully-professional.

"I think the youth coming through these days won't realise how much people had to work to get to where they are," England said. "There was a time where I was basically paying to go to football, not football paying me. It is a reality check but it also humbles you, knowing that the way the game is growing."

From the age of 17 until shortly before her 20th birthday, England and her twin sister, Laura, worked together at Wellington Street chippy in Barnsley, their home town, where Bethany was studying at college after signing for the Belles after coming through Sheffield United's girl's academy.

"I ended up working at the chippy for three-and-a-half years doing night shifts on a Friday and Saturday, starting from like 10pm and finishing at 5am or 6am," she recalled. "You'd be surprised how many people want fish and chips after a night out -  not me -  but it paid me through college; it paid for my driving lessons and everything.

"[After shifts] then it was a couple of hours sleep, straight to my football game, then do the night shift whilst I was at college. It got me where I needed to be. I've done all sorts. I've worked in a bakery factory, I've worked at M&S and I've also worked in an Indian.

"Obviously, I can batter a good fish and chips. I did the service or frying. At Easter time, we used to fry Creme Eggs. It sounds nasty, but you'd be surprised. It's all right!."

Bethany England after winning the FA Cup with Chelsea this season Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Despite seeing the process up close so frequently, she says the experience hasn't entirely put her off occasionally treating herself to some battered cod, but nowadays, she is grateful for a much better night sleep. But her appetite for hard work - which certainly did stop when she became a part-time law student while playing in the WSL too - perhaps stems from idolising Steven Gerrard as a youngster.

"Even though we don't play the same position, I just thought his mentality, his work rate, the way he was a leader for the team always inspired me," she said. "The fact that I could come across or potentially be another little girl's idol and inspiration now is very humbling. It's a very surreal thing to think of, to be honest, being on posters in little girl's and boy's bedrooms."

That's a prospect that's now very real, with the Lionesses set to star in front of primetime BBC One viewers and sellout crowds next month. That's something of a new experience for former Liverpool loanee England, who missed out on selection for the national team's last major tournament, the 2019 World Cup, a few weeks before her senior international debut. The following season would be her breakthrough campaign in 2019-20, where she ended up scoring the winner in the League Cup final and being named PFA and WSL Player of the Year.

This summer she is one of three number nines in the Lionesses squad, along with the team's record scorer Ellen White and Manchester United's Alessia Russo. England is likely to get some game-time on Friday against the Netherlands in a friendly at Elland Road - a mere 20 miles from her old chippy - particularly in light of the fact that Manchester City's White will unfortunately miss the warm-up fixture after testing positive for Covid-19 this week.

England on the training pitch with manager Sarina Wiegman Credit: GETTY IMAGES

However, as a tournament debutant who describes herself as "probably a late bloomer", England's thoughts are only on the squad's aims, adding: "Being [my] first tournament, the best thing I can do is just make sure that I'm in a good headspace, give everything for the team and make sure I'm a good team-mate through disappointment and victory, and just conduct myself in a manner that I'd be proud.

"Obviously, I want to score goals. That's my job; that's what I get paid to do. But depending on game time, or whatever, all I can do is impact as good as I can possibly do and just make sure I leave everything I've got on the field."

England is full of praise for the impact of head coach Sarina Wiegman, who led her former side the Netherlands to the European title on her home soil in 2017, and says: "She's been here; she's done it. I can't wait to see where she's going to take this team.

"Sarina is a phenomenal coach, a very good people person. She manages the players very well. She's someone that's used to winning and she drives us everyday. She expects high standards; she tells us when things aren't right; and she's not shy to be savage and brutal when she needs to be. I think you kind of need that in this environment. If you don't, that's not how you're going to win things. So, I've every trust and belief in what Sarina's intentions are with this group.

"I've worked so hard that part of me thought it probably wouldn't ever come. I have no shame in saying that when Sarina told me I'd been picked that I did cry. I think it was just a flood of emotion on top of the season. Timing is everything and probably in 2019 [for the World Cup], I was still younger, maybe I wasn't as ready as I thought I was. Now I feel like I am ready. So, I'm very lucky and privileged that the hard work I've done has paid off."