The Guardian

Earps welcomes ‘surreal’ return from internatio­nal wilderness

- Suzanne Wrack

Mary Earps has said it is “surreal” to be back in the England squad after thinking “this is probably internatio­nally the end of the road for me”, having not played for the Lionesses since November 2019.

“I was quite open and honest about that,” said the Manchester United goalkeeper, called up by the new England manager, Sarina Wiegman, for the first 2023 World Cup qualifiers against North Macedonia on Friday and Luxembourg next Tuesday. “My focus has maybe shifted in terms of being more intensely on United. To be back is a bit surreal and I’m hugely grateful for the opportunit­y. I just want to enjoy it and obviously it’s a hugely personal comeback.”

Earps’ last England game was against Germany at Wembley. She was then left out of the squad for the SheBelieve­s Cup and it was a hard pill to swallow.

“There weren’t many people around me at the time, because Covid fell at that time,” she said. “I’m very proud and delighted. We’ll just see what happens but for now I’m really happy to be here and help the team in whatever capacity that may be.”

It is a “clean slate”, said Earps who, at 28, thinks her best football is still to come. The squad have been together for only a few days before Friday’s game at St Mary’s but Earps has a good first impression of Wiegman, who led the Netherland­s to the Euro 2017 title and the 2019 World Cup final, where they lost to the US.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Earps said. “Jackie [Groenen, a United teammate] has spoken very highly of her. Her reputation just in general is great.

“From the early meetings all I can say is the way she conducts herself just seems so switched on, direct, really articulate and intelligen­t, and that’s something that you as a player makes you think: ‘Oh yeah, OK, I can’t wait. I think I’ve got a lot to learn here.’”

 ??  ?? Mary Earps last played for England in November 2019
Mary Earps last played for England in November 2019

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