Thu. Jun 13th, 2024
BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2023: Mary Earps profile

Age: 30 Position: Goalkeeper Teams: Manchester United and England

In 2019, the closest Mary Earps could come to a Lionesses place was sitting on the bench as England’s third-choice goalkeeper at the World Cup.

Now, however, she’s become a name synonymous with England’s success and has cemented her spot as one of the game’s greatest goalkeepers.

After being handed her Lionesses chance by manager Sarina Wiegman and helping guide them to last year’s Euro 2022 victory, she was ever-present as her side reached the 2023 World Cup final, saving a penalty against Spain in that match.

Last season was another important chapter in Earps’ career and her shot-stopping abilities were crucial in Manchester United’s run to the FA Cup final, as well as the runners-up spot in the Women’s Super League (WSL).

Her long list of accolades from a stellar year included being named Fifa Best Goalkeeper, England women’s player of the year, receiving the WSL and World Cup golden gloves, and being selected in the Professional Footballers’ Association’s WSL team of the year.

Earps in her own words

What were her highlights of 2022-23?

“I feel privileged to have so many standout moments.

“Obviously World Cup finalist, [winning] Fifa Best, the FA Cup Final and on the Ballon d’Or shortlist which is incredible as well.

“I’m really just enjoying being a role model to kids, to anyone who can take inspiration from the journey I’ve been on, being a beacon of light for people who’ve maybe had similar stories to me and see similarities in what I’ve gone through and know you can keep going. The best is yet to come.”

How important is it to her to change the perception of goalkeepers?

“I feel very strongly about challenging the narrative – all we have ever known is to accept that strikers are at the forefront of things, they score goals so that’s understandable.

“I’m just trying to shine a light on what goalkeepers do, and what we go through. It’s such a high pressure position, high stakes, but showing it can be fun.

“I’ve been speaking about the tag line, ‘goalkeeping is cool’ and it came through my journey whenever I have visited clubs, managers always elbowed me to say ‘can you convince one of the girls or lads to go in goal this weekend’.

“It’s not a position that is really sought after, the criticism you get, [you’re] not really on billboards or at the forefront of conversation, so I feel very passionately about challenging that narrative.

“It is obviously tiring at times, but I’m just trying to give up as much of my time to push that and show it is a valued and appreciated position.”

What are her memories of the World Cup final?

“The day itself was just brilliant, everything you ever dream of as a kid when you represent your country at the highest level – the big games, high pressure moments.

“The result definitely wasn’t what we set out to achieve and can overshadow the journey and everything to get there.

“Spain are a fantastic team, we were beaten by the better side in that game if we’re honest, there’s no shame in that. It just gives you even more fire in the belly.

“I remember [being told] I had won goalkeeper of the tournament. I would have those photos for the rest of my life – and my loved ones were in the crowd to witness it – so I tried not to be a misery and look in their direction, pause that disappointment for a moment and hold the trophy in the air but [it was] difficult.”

How important was challenging Nike to get them to sell goalkeeper shirts?

“It’s been a long battle and a long discussion and I feel we got to a point where Nike really heard what I had to say and I was supported by some fantastic team-mates who spoke on my behalf and advocated it.

“To be in a position where I feel [I can] really change the world in this area is fantastic for all young goalkeepers and I know it means a lot to so many people.”

‘I wouldn’t want another goalkeeper in the world’

England midfielder Ella Toone, speaking after the Lionesses beat Haiti at the World Cup: “She makes some unbelievable saves. She kept us in the game so that’s why she’s number one and why she’s our goalkeeper.”

Manchester United manager Marc Skinner:“I wouldn’t want another goalkeeper in the world. She is a key part to why England have had their success too.

“The amount of people I see coming to games just to see Mary. She is such a popular figure that will inspire the next generation. That’s the legacy of the Lionesses.”

Last season’s achievements

What else should you know?

Earps played briefly for Wolfsburg – winning a German league and cup double in 2019
A tram in her home of Nottingham has been named after the England goalkeeper
Nike eventually produced Earps goalkeeper kits after she complained about them not being made
Earps considered retirement during her two-year England absence between November 2019 and September 2021

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