Ladies preview: Knowing me knowing them

Beth England discusses her new role in the side and looks ahead to Chelsea Ladies’ season opener against her former club on Sunday.

The 22-year-old is about to begin her second campaign at Wheatsheaf Park and looks set to do so in a new position, having spent much of pre-season playing at wing-back.

Although she only started seven of 19 appearances last term, her versatility was a crucial asset to the management, but now she is looking forward to hopefully nailing down a position in the side.

‘It was the manager’s idea and at first I found it hard as there is a lot of distance to cover,’ she said, ‘but I think as pre-season went on and I got used to the position, I adapted quite well and I’m enjoying playing there.

‘Last year I was moved about and played quite a lot of positions – I think I played everywhere except centre-half and goalkeeper – but now I know where I’m going to be playing.

‘We’ve got an excellent squad and competition for places is extremely high, but I seem to be doing all right there.’

Manager Emma Hayes used a recent set of programme notes to praise the work ethic showed by England and another youngster who joined the club in 2016, Jade Bailey.

‘Last year I came into a squad which had finished as champions the previous season and it was quite a big step, but it was just a case of getting my head down and getting on with it.

‘Now it’s starting to show – I’ve played quite a few minutes in pre-season, which wasn’t the case last year, and I’m in a better physical and mental state than I was 12 months ago.’

The new campaign gets underway against Doncaster Rovers Belles on Sunday and it’s a club England knows well, having spent six years there before her move south last January.

‘It’s a very tough start to the season. They’ve gone back down to WSL2, but I know how strong they are as a unit and a team. There’s a good bond between the players.

‘They’re the underdogs, but they’re not going to come here and not put up a fight. I’ve seen footage of their game against London Bees and they looked in really good form and they scored some great goals.

‘We know we can’t take them lightly, they’re going to give us everything they’ve got, but we’re going to do the same and hopefully we can get the win and progress to the next round. As hard as it’s going to be, as long as we do our jobs properly everything else will fall into place.’

The Women’s FA Cup fifth-round tie - Chelsea Ladies v Doncaster Rovers Belles - at Wheatsheaf Park in Staines kicks off at 2pm on Sunday afternoon.

- Click to read our latest Chelsea Ladies fan blog