Chelsea’s Bethany England had one of those seasons where everything just clicked into gear last year.
Twenty-one goals in all competitions, including the winner against Arsenal in last year’s Conti Cup final, saw her named as both Chelsea and the PFA’s Player of the Season.
Added to her personal success, she also ended last season with a Conti-Cup and Women’s Super League winners’ medal, while also making a breakthrough on the international stage with England’s Lionesses, netting on her debut against Brazil at the Riverside stadium.
Now an England regular and one of the WSL’s star strikers, her story is one that dreams are made of, even more so given that she juggled a job at a fish and chip shop in Barnsley during the early stages of her career while also representing Doncaster Rovers Belles.
Yet, the Chelsea striker came close to missing out on all this glory, as she considered walking away from football on two separate occasions.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, England says: “There’s been two instances where I’ve thought about giving up.
“The first one was when I was at Doncaster Rovers Belles at a much younger age and I was probably more naive and was just thinking the world had ended if things hadn’t gone right.
“The second one was when I went on loan and I think everyone knows in that story, my confidence was at rock bottom and I felt like I’d failed.
“I think that’s quite a hard thing to turn yourself round from. I had great people around me and people to help me through that time which was difficult for me.
“Hopefully, I’ve managed to show that I came out better on the other side and since then, I’ve been able to have some great seasons, especially last year.
“I think everyone knows me as a fish and chip player now! It’s probably not the best story to have but that’s my story and that’s the way it is.
“I forget that I’ve been in this league a long time. I started playing in the WSL when I was 16, so ten years I have been a part of this. It feels like it’s been a long journey, even though I’m still relatively young and I know there’s plenty of years left in these legs.
“I think it’s important we keep striving for more for women’s football and I’m honoured that I’m a part of that and I’m proud of the journey I’ve had. I know it’s only going to get better from here.”
This season, though, hasn’t quite gone to plan for the striker, with injuries meaning she has lost her place in the Chelsea side in recent weeks to the likes of Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby and Danish striker Pernille Harder.
The 26-year-old has still registered 11 goals in all competitions, though, and is desperate to reclaim her place in the Chelsea team, with the Blues currently in the driving seat to win their second consecutive WSL title.
“I think we’ve shown a lot of character and resilience this year. Personally, it’s been a difficult year. I got off to quite a bad start when my appendix ruptured just before pre-season started so that took some time to get back,” she explains.
“A lot of big names are at Chelsea and competition is tough. Obviously, the manager decides each week who she’s going to play and unfortunately, I’ve not had as many minutes as I would have liked this year.
“I had quite severe concussion in the Atletico [Madrid] game which, sadly, kept me out for about three weeks. Three weeks isn’t a long time but, in our schedule, I missed about six games, which is a huge amount. My head is fine, which is the main thing.
“I’d like to think everyone that knows me knows I’m not a quitter and I’ll fight for what I can. Fingers crossed it means I’ll get more minutes soon enough.”
If Chelsea do walk away with a second league title in as many seasons, they will have goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger to thank after she pulled off a stunning save to deny Lauren Hemp a late winner for Manchester City when the teams met in a top of the table clash just over a week ago.
That save prompted Chelsea boss Emma Hayes to label Berger as being one of the best goalkeepers in the world, a statement England also agrees with.
“For me, she is, hands down, the best. We train with her every day and moments like that with the last save of the game against City happen regularly in training,” she revealed.
“The girls see the quality she has and it’s honestly phenomenal to see how quick her reactions are, what she can do and the saves she can pull off. I’m so proud of her because I don’t believe she always gets the credit she deserves.”
With more silverware with Chelsea potentially on the cards, another ambition for England is to represent Team GB at this summer’s Olympics in Japan.
A lot has changed at international level over the last year, with Phil Neville leaving his position as England Lionesses boss to take up the vacant role at Inter Miami.
Hege Riise has been placed in interim charge until September before Sarina Wiegman takes over the reins, meaning she will also lead Team GB’s women’s side at the Olympics and England hailed the Norwegian’s impact since her arrival.
“Hege is a very interesting character,” she finished. “She was a phenomenal player and she’s bringing a lot of experience and coaching to the team.
“We’ve only had two camps together and it’s still relatively new. But her and Rhian [Wilkinson] and the way they work, I’m a big fan of that.
“I know the last two results don’t really reflect how great a team we have, but I do believe this team is capable of great things. [I’m] looking forward to the Olympics. I think Hege is going to do an amazing job with whatever team she takes out there.
“It would mean the world to me [to go to the Olympics]. My family is big on the Olympic side and that’s the main thing we grew up watching.
“What an honour to be able to say you’ve been an Olympian and gone to an Olympics representing Team GB. I’d like to think the girls are going to be able to do a great job, whoever goes and make sure they bring a medal home as well.”
Listen to the full interview with Bethany England on Women’s Football Weekly on talkSPORT2 from 8pm this evening.