Ahead of Chelsea Women’s return to Kingsmeadow against Yeovil this Sunday, Bethany England discusses her wonderful relationship with the fans and what makes matchdays at our KT1 home so special…
The 24-year-old will be hoping to continue her impressive return to action with the Blues when the Glovers visit us this weekend, which is a perfect opportunity for Chelsea fans to see one of our sides in action, with the men’s team currently on a break for internationals.
While on loan at Liverpool last season, England scored four times against Yeovil in an 8-0 victory and she has been in good goalscoring form for her parent club since returning in the summer, netting four times in the early part of the campaign.
More than anything, though, her work ethic has long endeared her to the Blues faithful, both at our former home at Wheatsheaf Park and now at Kingsmeadow, with supporters regularly singing her name.
‘That is always so nice to hear, it’s such an honour,’ said England, who also appears in the new edition of Chelsea magazine, which came out earlier this week. ‘The supporters are so important and when they're singing for us it gives us such a lift.
‘Honestly, the impact it has on the girls on the pitch is tremendous and I'm not sure they always realise just how much of a difference they make for us. For me, to hear the support from them and that they know I'm willing to work for the team means a great deal to me.
‘They pay their hard-earned every week, so it's up to us to make sure we're on it and putting in good performances. I'm always one of the last back to the changing room because I'll stay out signing things and having pictures with fans. I feel like they deserve your time.’
Due to the more intimate setting at Kingsmeadow, compared to Stamford Bridge, a Chelsea Women’s match allows fans to meet their heroes on a weekly basis, with the traditional post-match ritual of the squad making their way along the touchline to stop for a chat, sign autographs and pose for pictures.
‘Can you imagine signing 40,000 signatures in one go,’ joked England. ‘But I think that's what makes our game so friendly and welcoming to the supporters. We can speak to them a little bit and sign things.
‘I also love that the mascots get to come into the changing room before the game and spend a bit of time with the team. It's so good for the young kids to see us in that environment, hopefully inspiring for them.
‘I think they get to pick a song which is played over the tannoy, too, but not in the dressing room. We've got a playlist that'll go on and it's between me or Millie [Bright], usually. We're the main DJs of the dressing room – she's No.1 and I'm behind her. It's a big honour!
‘We've got similar tastes, being from the same neck of the woods, but we try to cater for all, because obviously we've got a few internationals in the team. We get a bit of ABBA flying around every now and again for the Swedes. It's all about keeping everyone happy.’
Moving onto matters on the field, the recent international break in the women’s game has halted our progress somewhat, having strung together three victories in the space of a week prior to that.
England feels like the Fiorentina game, which took us into the Champions League quarter-finals, could turn out to be a turning point in our campaign. We thrashed the Italian side 6-0 in Florence at the end of October.
‘As a squad, we knew after the run of draws that there was going to be a tonking coming up, and that's with no disrespect to other teams,’ she said. ‘It was Fiorentina who were on the receiving end, unfortunately for them.
‘We've actually only lost one game, but those draws earlier in the season have felt like defeats. We keep getting clean sheets as well – all the goals against came in that one match versus Arsenal.
‘But we're picking up some wins, the momentum is building, and there are going to be games when Arsenal and City drop points and they've still got to play each other, so you never know. We just need to keep pushing on ourselves and see where it takes us.’
Regular visitors to this website may recall a previous interview with England, which came after our game against Sarajevo in September, when she revealed her pre-match preparation included sitting a law exam.
She had been keen for her confidence not to be over-emphasised in print, just in case it proved to be misplaced, but she needn’t have worried.
‘I passed,’ exclaimed England, who joined us from Doncaster ahead of the 2016 season. ‘I was so stressed that day, but I passed with flying colours and I'm over the moon! Onto the next one, now.
‘That was only my first year, but I had to postpone my exam in the summer when I was away with England. I'd actually started a law degree when I first came to Chelsea, but there were complications and it wasn't until I went to Liverpool that I restarted it.
‘Hopefully there won’t be any more exams on a matchday, but I think it was just unfortunate timing. The next one is in May or June, which is obviously towards the end of the season, so knowing my luck it probably will! But we'll figure a way round it.’
If she keeps up her form for the rest of the season, perhaps the World Cup in France will get in the way of her studies...
‘A girl can dream, but my focus is just on Chelsea,’ she concluded. ‘I want to keep my head down, keep playing and keep helping the team.
‘I know Phil Neville has plenty of options, he's shown in the most recent call-ups that he's still looking at new faces, so if I'm playing well then who knows what will happen. I'd love it if the opportunity comes my way, but we'll see.’
If you want to see Chelsea football this weekend, tickets, which can be purchased here, are only £6/£3 for Chelsea Women v Yeovil Town Ladies on Sunday at 2pm.