'100 appearances for Arsenal is a true honour'

Beth Mead

Sunday's Barclays FA Women's Super League game against Birmingham City was a special one for Beth Mead.

Not only did we mark our fans' return to Meadow Park after a nine-month absence with a win, our No 9 also clocked up a century of appearances in an Arsenal shirt.

It's been some journey for the 25-year-old since she made the long trip down from Sunderland back in 2016 and one which has seen her transform from a prolific striker into one of the division's most creative forces.

And now that she's reached the milestone, Mead's been able to reflect on the adventure which has seen her establish herself as a regular in England's senior set-up.

"I was 21 when I signed and was probably still a bit of a kid," she begins. "I was still learning my trade and then obviously I came to Arsenal to start playing on the wing. It's not something that I thought I'd do when I signed.

"I would like to think I've grown up a lot. I'm living in London as a country girl from up north, so I've had to look after myself a little bit on and off the pitch. Hopefully that shows in my maturity since I signed for the club.

"If you'd have told me that I was going to play 100 games for Arsenal when I first started here, I wouldn't have believed you. It's a great milestone to hit. There are some legends that have made it there. I wouldn't call myself a legend but 100 appearances for a club like this is a true honour."

Mead may not consider herself a club legend just yet but she's a firm fan favourite at Meadow Park.

The Whitby-born forward has topped our assist charts in the past two seasons with 17 last term and 13 during our league-winning campaign, and has already set up five goals in 2020/21.

Impressive numbers on their own. But when you factor in the 37 goals she's also scored during her time in the capital, it makes for serious reading.

"I think I care more about getting an assist each game than I do scoring now, which probably isn't the right thing to do," Mead laughs.

"But no, playing as a winger is great. Playing as a No 9, I think I've got a bit of an upper-hand in that I know what the perfect ball is, what No 9s like delivered into the box. I've been on the receiving end of that so now it's my time to put that in.

"I think that's helped me, playing as a No 9 for most of my career, and now it's helping me as a winger. I've had quite a lot of assists so maybe some more goals would help as well!"

Mead's self-deprecating personality - and a love of TikTok off the pitch - has helped endear her to our fans even more but don't be fooled, she knows where the goal is.

And when the England international hits them, they tend to stay hit - regardless of where she's shooting from!

"Looking back, my favourite goal so far is probably the one against Brighton," Mead recalls. "That was quite nice because of the way it went in and it was the same day we won the league. That's pretty memorable, and we got to play at the Amex which is a pretty impressive stadium, too.

"In terms of games, there are two that stick out. Being a big rivalry, the 5-0 win away at Chelsea was a big game for me, as well as the Continental Cup final when we won it in 2018. Those are the two that I remember the most. Well, those and the Brighton one of course!"

Mead is now the sixth player in our current squad to have hit a century of appearances for us and the first to do so since Jen Beattie this time last year.

And with Katie McCabe, Vivianne Miedema and Lisa Evans hot on her tail, our No 9 is delighted to celebrate the milestone with the players she's shared her Gunners adventure with.

"It's really nice," she said. "Katie's is coming up not long after me and there are a lot of girls in front of me who have got 100 appearances. It shows how close the group is and how long we've played with each other now. Hopefully that's showing on the pitch. There are lots of legends on and off the pitch these days."

The next milestone in Mead's sights may seem some way off. But after seeing Leah Williamson rack up her 150th appearance last week, Mead is determined to do the same - and is prepared to prove herself all over again in an Arsenal shirt.

"I'd like to say I haven't hit my best ability at the club yet," she admits. "I've still got a lot more to come, so hopefully I can start showing that in some performances sooner rather than later. I'm looking forward to the rest of my time at Arsenal and hopefully I can show a little bit more of what I'm about."

And if making her 100th appearance wasn't enough, Mead was able to do so in front of 900 fans, who were safely welcomed back to Meadow Park for the first time since February.

So what's our forward's message to the supporters who have loyally serenaded her from the terraces for the past four years?

"Thank you for believing in me," she says. "They've helped me with my confidence on and off the pitch. Things don't always go right but it's nice when the fans have your back. You're always going to have people with opinions but the fans at Arsenal have been amazing and I wouldn't be where I am today without them, so thank you."

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