Champions League ‘heartache’ can drive Chelsea to greater heights – Beth England

Beth England has emphasised Chelsea’s belief they can reach another Women’s Champions League final after the “heartbreak” of Sunday’s loss to Barcelona.

The contest in Gothenburg saw first-time finalists Chelsea thumped 4-0, all the goals coming in the opening 45 minutes, by a Barca outfit whose own debut in the final two years earlier ended in a 4-1 defeat to Lyon.

England says there is a strong conviction with the squad that there can be a next time for Chelsea and they will be better for the experience.

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The Blues and England forward told the PA news agency: “The immediate feeling was just heartbreak. We truly believed this was the year we were going to win. To fall short the way we did was really tough.

“But, even with that heartbreak, once we got into the changing rooms, we were very much like, ‘We’ll go again, we can get here (again)’.

“Barcelona were in our position two years ago and and they used their heartbreak against us.

“It was a big learning curve for us and I’m sure we’ll be able to take that heartache with us going forward and be much more…I’d say prepared, but I felt we were prepared, but just in a position of knowing what it’s like to be on that stage, and to put on a better performance than what we did in the first half.

“We as a group truly feel we can be in that position again and take the learning curve, what Barcelona threw at us, and take it into the next time.”

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich spoke to the players after the match, and England said: “It was nice for the girls to know we have the support and backing of him and it was greatly appreciated that he came in to speak to us.

“He just said ‘next time’. We believe that wasn’t the first and only chance we’ll get to be there and he believes the same.”

Emma Hayes’ side, who retained the Women’s Super League and League Cup this term, conclude their campaign on Thursday by hosting Everton in the fifth round of the FA Cup, the further stages of which will be played next season.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (centre) spoke to the players after Sunday's game (Adam Ishe/PA).
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (centre) spoke to the players after Sunday’s game (Adam Ishe/PA).

England, PFA women’s player of the year for 2019-20, has been used frequently as a substitute this season.

The 26-year-old, who came off the bench on Sunday, said: “To say for personal reasons it’s not been as great of a year and still come away with those trophies is not a bad season to have.”

Asked if she was still happy as a Chelsea player, England said: “I think anyone that knows me knows I love the club. It’s an environment which is very much cherished and I think it would be hard to replicate that.”

Hege Riise’s Great Britain squad for the Tokyo Olympics will be named this month, and England, scorer of two goals in 10 England caps, said: “Whatever team does get selected, I just hope it’s the best team to do the job and a medal comes home.

England interim boss Hege Riise names her Great Britain squad for the Tokyo Olympics this month (MIke Egerton/PA).
England interim boss Hege Riise names her Great Britain squad for the Tokyo Olympics this month (MIke Egerton/PA).

“As England we’ve not produced the results we’d want recently, but I don’t think that defines what we can take into the Olympics and I think, with the help of everyone else, we’ll be able to produce a really good display.”

As the build-up to Tokyo continues, England has launched a fitness campaign with Burns Pet Nutrition for dogs and their owners featuring an Olympic-themed range of activities.

England, owner of dogs Buddy and Dilys, said of the ‘Canine Games’: “It’s a way of encouraging people to get out and about with their dogs, making sure their dogs are getting exercise, and more of a fun way of doing it.

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“I’ve got a strong bond with Buddy. In the first lockdown I had a difficult spell, I had an injury and was stuck in London, it was just me and him, and he was my best mate and got me through it.

“Even just going out on walks with him, it gets you out and about and makes you feel happier, and through lockdown we were doing all sorts of activities.”

:: Beth England has teamed up with Burns Pet Nutrition to launch The Canine Games after research by Burns revealed six million dogs in the UK are thought to be overweight. For more information or to get involved, visit www.burnspet.co.uk/caninegames