Beth Mead says competition for places has helped improve her performance after she continued her superb form by setting a new England record on Friday.
Having been brought on as a substitute at half-time, Mead scored twice as the Lionesses thrashed the Netherlands 5-1 at Elland Road in their penultimate warm-up match ahead of next month’s home European Championship.
Registering her 13th and 14th goals for her country since the start of 2021-22, she broke a 61-year-old England record held by Jimmy Greaves for scoring the most goals in a season.
The Arsenal winger – scorer of 11 Women’s Super League goals last term – said: “There’s a lot of talent in this team.
“I wouldn’t say I become complacent, but competition always makes you play better, it makes you compete, and I think this season I’ve had to compete for my position for club and country, and it’s made me better as a player.
“I’m enjoying the challenge, it’s making me better each day and I know I have to do every session to the best of my ability and try to bring that onto the pitch as well.”
The Netherlands, who England boss Sarina Wiegman guided to glory at the last Euros in 2017, went ahead in Leeds via a Lieke Martens header before Lucy Bronze equalised just after the half-hour mark.
The early stages of the second half then saw Sherida Spitse send a penalty off the post and wide for the visitors and Mead scored at the other end a minute later to put England in front, sliding in to finish from close range as she connected with Lauren Hemp’s cross.
Fellow substitute Ella Toone and Hemp subsequently added efforts in the 72nd and 74th minutes, and Mead then struck her second late on to wrap up the eye-catching win, with a final warm-up match against Switzerland to come next week before England open their Euros campaign by facing Austria at Old Trafford on July 6.
Asked about the record, Mead said: “I wasn’t aware of that until I was told when I got off the pitch.
“I’m pretty sure there’s some big names up there, so yes, it’s nice to have broken that record. (But) for me, I don’t know about these records, I’m not here to break them, I’m just here to play my best football and bring my best game for the team, and (against the Netherlands) I did that.”
The 27-year-old, who has excelled for England and Arsenal over the past season after suffering the disappointment of missing out on selection for the Great Britain squad for the Tokyo Olympics, added: “I have a lot of confidence right now.
“Some days you have bad days, some things don’t fall right. (Against the Netherlands) they did for me.
“It’s been a lot of hard work from me. It’s not just happening on the pitch, it’s a lot of sweat and tears sometimes going into training as well.”
Mead has spoken in the past about sometimes playing better when “angry”.
And when asked after the Netherlands match what ‘angry Beth’ looks like, she said with a smile: “A little bit like the Hulk, running around and starting smashing things!”
She added: “I think I have got a lot better balance in my game of being angry but got a steady line. There’s a fine line I think and I’m starting to get that right a little bit in my game now.
“I wore my heart on my sleeve always when I play football, I always put my best effort in, I put 100 per cent in for club and country.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but you have to find the right formula and hopefully I’ve found that a little bit now.”