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England boss Sarina Wiegman says Beth Mead was “not close” to a recall for this month’s Nations League double-header against Belgium despite her return to action with Arsenal last weekend.
Winger Mead made her first appearance since sustaining ACL damage last November when she came off the bench late on for the Gunners against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, going on to set up the winning goal in a 2-1 victory.
The Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner and player of the tournament was missing from the 25-player England squad announced on Tuesday for matches against Belgium in Leicester a week on Friday and Leuven four days later.
Wiegman told a press conference: “To be honest, she was not close.
“She’s in a good place now. She’s been out for nine months, she had her first minutes, which was very nice to see.
“She was really happy, the crowd was very happy so it gave a lot of energy too.
“But I think she first has to build and show performances at club, and get that consistency back.
“Then of course I hope she performs at that level we hope she gets back on and then we have an opportunity to select her, and she has the opportunity to compete with the players who are in the squad right now.”
Wiegman’s selection does see Fran Kirby – another who missed the summer’s run to the final of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand because of injury – return to the fold.
Kirby has featured in each of Chelsea’s three matches this term, starting Saturday’s win against West Ham, as she steps up her comeback from a knee problem suffered in February.
Wiegman said: “Of course it’s very nice that she’s back on the pitch and is fit and healthy.
“She did well with Chelsea when she came on the pitch. I think she has been building up to those moments, also during the summer, and she’s shown enough quality in her performance that I think it’s good that she comes back in the team.”
Barcelona midfielder Keira Walsh is also back after being sidelined by a calf issue for September’s win over Scotland and loss to the Netherlands, as is Mead’s club-mate Lotte Wubben-Moy, who withdrew from the last squad with an injury.
There are maiden call-ups for Grace Clinton, the 20-year-old midfielder on loan at Tottenham from Manchester United, and 19-year-old Manchester City goalkeeper Khiara Keating, while Katie Robinson, Jordan Nobbs, Laura Coombs and Lucy Staniforth drop out.
Wiegman said: “I think, yes it goes fast for both, Khiara at Man City and Grace at Tottenham, but I think they have showed good performances, and what I want to see from them is come in camp, see how they relate to the other players in the squad, and show what they can do.”
Keating is among four goalkeepers in the squad, a group also featuring fellow City player Ellie Roebuck and Chelsea’s Hannah Hampton, neither of whom have made an appearance for their clubs so far this season.
Asked if Roebuck and Hampton’s inclusion was an indication that the goalkeeping pool was not as big as she would like at the moment, Wiegman said: “That’s a little bit complicated indeed.
“Yes we want players to play, because when they play we can see them and their performances make us pick them.
“Both of them have built a little bit of credit with us, because they have been with our team for a long period of time and done well in training sessions, and shown up all the time.
“I think they still are with the best goalkeepers in the country and I just hope in the future they do get minutes.”
England, who can secure Paris 2024 Olympics qualification for Great Britain via the Nations League, face a Belgium outfit who have four points from their two group games so far.
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