Is Chelsea’s Bethany England the country’s top player?

Bethany England has won a fair share of both individual and team awards over the last few years, but where does she rank amongst her fellow English players?

A last name that represents the nation. Bethany England is gradually peeling away from her fellow Brits as one of the best in the Women’s Super League. Known for its pubs and posh accents, Oasis and the Beatles, David Beckham and Doctor Who, red buses and black cabs, fish and chips and cups of tea, England has a new spectacle to be excited about.

England constitutes much more than the food and fictional characters this country is famed for. She is an individual on her way to footballing royalty, and where better to ply her trade in the affluent area of London, Chelsea.

It has not always been the riches of the reigning Women’s Super League champions for England. She cut her teeth in the industrial town of Sheffield, beginning life at United’s Centre of Excellence before signing for Doncaster Rover Bells back in 2011. England arrived at Chelsea shortly after the Blues’ first WSL title conquest, and although not an instant regular, she swiftly warmed himself to the home fans for her determination and obvious eye for goal.

This would be the basis that England would build her profile upon in the coming years. A loan spell at Liverpool took her goalscoring prowess off the ground, netting 10 in 16 to finish joint-third in the division’s goalscoring charts.

However, England herself was less assertive on her impact. She detailed her personnel struggles during an interview in March, saying “I was at a stage in my career when I went on loan and I genuinely didn’t think I was going to make it.” Overcoming her doubts, with the support of a psychologist, allowed her to overcome this barrier, a mark of her strong character on and off the field. Since returning to Chelsea, she has been nothing short of a sensation.

In the past two campaigns, she has netted 43 times across all competitions, finishing consecutively as the Blues top markswomen. She was narrowly pipped to the Golden Boot by Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema in 2019/20 by two goals, yet the Dutch delight could not deny England the WSL Player of the Season award, nor the PFA Players’ Player of the Year accolade. 

She also scooped Chelsea’s Player of the Year as the Blues became holders of the league and Continental Tyres League Cup, beating the Gunners in the final, which England predictably bagged in.

It is almost incredulous that England has only been capped on seven occasions for England, Phil Neville overlooking her for the 2019 World Cup squad and only handing her debut last August. Despite her lack of international experience, the 26-year-old is undoubtedly one of the nation’s most valuable assets, rightly included for the friendly against Germany later this month.

Her competition to be the country’s crowning jewel is certainly stiff though. Lucy Bronze has established herself as one of the finest defenders of the past decade, crowned as UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2018/19, alongside two PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year and a trio of Champions League medals with Lyon.

MBE Steph Houghton is heralded throughout the land for her services to the female game, captaining the Lionesses at major tournaments and is level on 120 appearances with Wayne Rooney. Ellen White and Jill Scott are also members of the City team who are established international regulars. White is just ten goals behind Kelly Smith’s all-time record, whereas Scott is rapidly closing in on the prize for most caps, held by Fara Williams at 172.

England also has healthy opposition within her own ranks at Chelsea. Frank Kirby heroically overcame a debilitating virus that left her sidelined for three months to feature alongside her fellow forward under Emma Hayes. Kirby gained double recognition in by collecting the 2017/18 PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Women’s Player of the Year.

Neville has a plethora of English talent to pick from, mixing rising stars such as Leah Williamson, Chloe Kelly and Georgia Stanway, to experienced members such as Alex Greenwood, Mille Bright, Toni Duggan, Jordan Nobbs and Nikita Parris. None, however, are on the trajectory that England is enjoying right now.

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Your Bronze’s, Houghton’s and White’s sadly won’t be around forever, whilst your Stanway’s and Kelly’s still have some way to grow. England—on the other hand—is peaking when it matters most. Hopefully she can fly the flag of St. George for many years to come, doing so as the No. 9 for Chelsea in the process.