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Tottenham Women captain Bethany England on leading Spurs into their first FA Cup final, ‘Robert-ball’ and her injury comeback

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Tottenham Women captain Bethany England on leading Spurs into their first FA Cup final, ‘Robert-ball’ and her injury comeback

By her own admission, Bethany England was surprised to be selected as Tottenham Women’s captain, just months after her arrival at the club – and amid her own hip surgery.

“It was a bit of a shock when I got asked it,” she exclusively told Sky Sports as England helped launch a new campaign for Skin Cancer Awareness month in partnership with O2, the British Skin Foundation and organic skincare brand Green People.

“I’ve never really seen myself as a captain because I’ve been around such prolific leaders in the past, I’ve not been in the position to be that leading voice.

“When I got asked originally I thought ‘it’s not for me really, I don’t think I’d be very good at it’, but I’ve actually really enjoyed relishing in it.

“At the start, there was a lot of responsibility and it was quite difficult for me with it being my first time as a captain, but also just coming from hip surgery, so leading the team whilst not being on the pitch, I had to really tap into my other skill sets.

Skin Cancer Awareness month, O2
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O2’s suncream accessory attaches to the back of a phone, allowing users to take crucial SPF with them wherever they go

“Everyone leads in a different way and everyone’s personality traits are different. No one leader is the same.

“The way I lead is firstly, no matter what role you play, there’s respect regardless and no matter whose voice is speaking, you listen to it. It’s not a case of one voice is more important than the other.

“And I want to make sure that the environment I’ve got with my team is that we’re in a safe space where people feel they can speak up and be heard.

“Also drilling into them that going through what we went through last season was a very difficult emotional roller coaster, and we know we’re better as a squad to be able to produce better performances.”

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Watch highlights of the WSL clash between Everton and Tottenham at Walton Hall Park

There’s perhaps no greater marker of her leadership as she faces the enviable task of leading Tottenham out in their first FA Cup final on May 12 at Wembley against Manchester United.

It’s not just her captaincy that has led Spurs to this point either. England joined last January as they faced a WSL relegation battle, with her 12 goals in 12 games helping to keep them in the league.

While she missed the first half of the season due to her recovery, England scored a crucial late equaliser against Man City in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and in the penalty shoot-out to see Spurs into their first semi-final.

But England herself is no stranger to an FA Cup final, or victory at Wembley, with Chelsea and the Lionesses. She will need to hone all of her experience and leadership to help the Tottenham players who have never played in either.

Bethany England won Euro 2022 with England last summer
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Bethany England won Euro 2022 with England at Wembley, and will return to the stadium on Sunday with Tottenham

“They are now starting to believe that they are good enough and that these things can become the norm,” England added. “This can’t just be a one-off – we have to continuously produce good performances and make sure that we’re constantly competing, especially against the top four.

“It’s very much like what I said for the semi-final, it’s about playing the game and not being too overwhelmed with the occasion.

“I know that’s easier to say than act on, but it’s making sure that as long as you control what you can, everything else is background noise. It’s a game of football, whether it is 90 minutes, 120 minutes or penalties.

“Just do the best that you possibly can on that day. If it’s not good enough, then you tried and if it is good enough, then amazing, you’ve just created history and achieved something fantastic.

“It would be pretty amazing lifting that trophy, but we’ve got a very difficult Man United side to come up against. The fact we played them recently [in the WSL], it’s given us a bit of chance to see each other out and settle the nerves a bit.

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Watch highlights of the Women’s Super League match between Manchester United and Tottenham.

“We definitely shouldn’t be counted out. I know we’ll probably be going in as the underdogs, but I think that’s also a very strong position to be in. I’m just excited for it and the prospect of bringing some silverware to the club.

“Going into Wembley, there’s probably going to be more confidence than we’ve ever had as a team… we truly believe it can be a really good day for Tottenham.”

You can can understand why England and Tottenham are feeling confident. Spurs have had success before – including promotion from the Championship and a fifth-place finish in the WSL two years ago – but the progress under Robert Vilahamn has a different feel.

It’s the same around the club as a whole – the arrival of not only Vilahamn, but men’s first team manager Ange Postecoglou too in the summer has breathed new life into Tottenham.

“The biggest change we’ve had is the stability and we’ve been given more of a style of play,” England explained.

“I guess you would say we’re very much trying to mirror the men’s side in how in which we approach games, how we are playing tactically and technically. Everyone’s referred to it as Ange-ball and potentially Robert-ball now!

“They are now starting to believe that they are good enough and that these things can become the norm. This can’t just be a one-off – we have to continuously produce good performances and make sure that we’re constantly competing, especially against the top four.”

Bethany England on Tottenham’s first FA Cup final

“They’ve brought in an excellent manager and that filters through to the rest of the club. We have an amazing staff group around us that are always willing to go above and beyond, the facilities are next level and being able to tap into the key parts, even if it’s just finding those one per cents, can make us better.

“We’re not the finished article yet. There’s still a long way to go, but we’re certainly showing that we are able to compete against the top teams this season.”

While Tottenham have been making waves this season, they’ve done so, in parts, without their striker and captain. England has previously discussed how her recovery was a tough process – her first major absence from football – she has also had to adapt upon her return.

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Sky Sports’ Vicki Hodges sat down with Bethany England to discuss her experience with endometriosis, a condition that affects 1.5 million women in the UK and around 200 million women globally

“I scored a couple of goals coming back after Christmas, then I had a bit of a dry spell when my confidence in that was hit a little bit,” she said. “There was a lot of rotation in the team and the manager has preferences on who to play.

“I was also trying to figure out how my body is going to work again. I also have hip dysplasia, so having used my body for 29 years in a certain way and now my hips are suddenly set in a different position, it is quite a drastic change.

“I was almost putting too much pressure on myself to be back to how I was playing before my surgery. I’ve only recently started to find that form again in the last month where I’ve definitely felt more like myself on the ball with my movement, my fitness, my sharpness.

“The goals are starting to come again and as a striker, that’s fantastic because I want to be able to help a team by scoring goals. It’s definitely not been an easy ride but it’s part of football.”

England’s involvement in O2’s skincare campaign, in partnership with the British Skin Foundation and Green People, holds incredibly personal motivation.

The limited edition sun cream holder is attachable to any mobile phone, encouraging more people to be proactive with their sun care. And England speaks about not only the campaign, but health as a whole with passion and conviction.

She said: “Unfortunately, my grandad died having skin cancer so it’s quite a close to home campaign for me. I’m very grateful that things like this are happening because I think people do need to be more aware.

“We’ve all been there where we’ve been burned and it’s hard to touch, but we don’t realise the damage it actually does to our skin. Everyone wants to tan, I’ve lived the pale life, but not at the cost of that.

Skin Cancer Awareness month, O2
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Bethany England is taking part in a campaign during Skin Caner Awareness month

“It’s a very handy gadget because you take your phone everywhere. Most people are three times more likely to take their phone with them than sunscreen, so if you combine the two, it goes hand in hand. It’s accessible and a daily reminder that you should be wearing it.

“I know my skin type and I’ve learned the lesson the hard way about being proactive with it, so I would always put a base layer on before I leave the house.

“Most people would go on holiday and wait until they start to burn before they then apply the suncream and at that point, the damage is already done, so it’s important to always have the base layer before you go outside.

“If you’re on holiday, you tend to go in the pool or wherever, and as much as it says it’s water resistant, if you’re spending three or four hours in a pool, it’s not going to stay on your skin for all that time, so it’s just about those daily reminders.

England: I’m proud to be talked about alongside Miedema

Earlier this season, Bethany England became only the second player to score 70 WSL goals after Vivianne Miedema.

Of the milestone – and potentially overtaking the Arsenal forward – England said: “It is something that’s on my mind, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

“Who wouldn’t want to possibly overtake one of the best forwards this league has ever seen? I’ve got a lot of respect for Viv and for me to be up there with such a great name like hers is a very proud thing.

“I’m counting down those numbers, trying to get hit that target and get closer to it as best I can, but naturally I just want to score most of the time anyway as a striker.”

“With my grandad, it stemmed from a mole and he had melanoma skin cancer. We can easily think ‘oh it’s just a mole, it’s not nothing to be worried about’, but we’re not the experts.

“If you see something that doesn’t look normal, go to your GP. It is always better to be safe and having been checked than not. And the best preventative measure is to constantly reapply in your sunscreen.”

England adds that she will have her sunscreen on for what is hopefully a glorious May day come Sunday’s FA Cup final. She and Spurs will be hoping for their own metaphorical moment in the sun.

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