- By Chris Slegg and Rob Stevens
- BBC Sport
Beth Mead is relishing the prospect of playing alongside England teammate Alessia Russo at Arsenal.
Russo is said to be close to joining the Gunners after rejecting a new contract at Manchester United.
“I love playing with Alessia in England and I want to do it at Arsenal,” Mead, 28, told BBC London.
“I know Alessia has spoken openly about how much [the speculation] is resting on his shoulders now. As an England team-mate you have to respect what he wants and try not to put too much pressure on what’s going on.
“He’s got the World Cup to look forward to and hopefully there won’t be too much stress going into that.”
He had hoped to return to fitness in time to make Sarina Wiegman’s squad for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, but did not recover quickly enough to be named in the 23-player party on 31 May.
“This is my motivation for my rehab,” Mead said. “I always knew it was going to be close.
“All in all, Sarina was great – she communicated with me and checked in regularly.
“We covered every base possible. If I was going I wouldn’t have played my best football because I wouldn’t have had the chance to play before the tournament.
“I think it was probably the sensible decision in the end, but hopefully in the long-run it will give me the time to make sure I’m perfect for when I come back.”
‘Hope’ in England at the World Cup
England captain Leah Williamson and Chelsea forward Fran Kirby will also miss the tournament through injury, but Mead is confident the Lionesses can challenge for the trophy.
“A lot has been discussed but, knowing the team and Sarina, they will have a plan A, B, C and D,” said Mead.
“They are an amazing team and I have no doubt they will be preparing in the right way. Some players will get a chance because others are not there, but they need to believe in their ability as a squad and as individuals.”
England begin their campaign against Haiti on July 22 (10:30 BST) and Denmark and China also face off in Group D.
“There is an expectation there because we won the Euros,” Mead said.
“I know what Sarina will do – she will tell them to go and play their best football and not think about the noise outside.”
Support from Arsenal and England ‘family’
As well as trying to get back to full fitness, Mead had to deal with off-field issues in his personal life.
Her mother June died in January following a battle with ovarian cancer, and Mead is grateful for the support she has received from her club and international team-mates since then.
“I have a wonderful supportive family around me, and [another] family in Arsenal and England,” he said.
“The way people picked me up some days and supported me through a difficult time personally in my life and on the pitch, I don’t think I would have got through those difficult times without them.”
“There are days when we want to cut each other’s heads off,” he added.
“But we have other days where you’re having a hard day or can’t do a certain workout in the gym where we understand each other and talk to each other.
“It was difficult but we did well in the circumstances.”
Mead is now hoping to be fit for pre-season and strengthen Arsenal’s challenge for the Women’s Super League title next season.
The north London club finished third last season, 11 points adrift of champions Chelsea.
“We were unlucky with injuries last season and it could have been very different if we had had a full squad, but that’s part of the game,” Mead said.
“I’d like to think with the squad we have, and hopefully we’ll make a few additions to strengthen it, that we can compete for a lot of trophies next season.”
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