England star Beth Mead hailed as ‘standout’ by former coach

“It was a case of trying to set the environment up so she could kind of excel really, you’ve got a group of 16 players, two goalkeepers, 14 outfield players, and ultimately you’re having to stretch and challenge Beth, while also making sure that those who maybe aren’t at her level are also getting a right challenge as well.

“A lot of the work was obviously trying to extend Beth’s quality while also helping everybody else out.”

The winger spent six years on Wearside before swapping the north east for north London with a move to Arsenal in 2017 and has cemented herself as a key goalscorer and assist-maker with the Gunners.

Last season in the Women’s Super League, Mead scored 11 goals and provided eight assists, and her talent has always been evident according to Cook, who fondly reminisced about one of her best performances with Middlesbrough.

He said: “We played against North Yorkshire Centre of Excellence, Beth’s got six [goals] that day, and I think I’ve said this before for people like my dad, for example, who doesn’t really watch women’s football or doesn’t really know much about it, if you mention a male player he’ll understand the link.

“So I said back in the day she was similar to Thierry Henry in that she’d play up front, but float out to the left, pick the ball up and she would then run at the defence, cut inside and then invariably hit it with the inside of her foot and it would curl into the far post.

“In this one particular game, she’s picked up the ball, she’s literally done that six times – she’s literally ran at the defence, cut inside, got into the box and curled it in.

“I remember being stood there and, this is bad probably saying it out loud, but you’re almost laughing because it was like this almost seems too easy for her and yet this is meant to be the best of the north east and it was too easy.”

Mead opened her account at the tournament with a lobbed shot against Austria before following up with a hat-trick in England’s 8-0 thrashing of Norway and one against Northern Ireland in Group A.

She scored the first of four against Sweden on Tuesday, meaning she is now tied with Alexandra Popp in the race for the tournament’s Golden Boot after the Wolfsburg striker put two past France to send Germany into the final.

“Those players that end up winning those kinds of awards are usually the very, very best,” Cook added.

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“The ones in the male game who’ll have won the Puskas award, the Ballon d’Or, those are the kind of players that win the Golden Boot in major tournaments and the fact that Beth is doing that is unbelievable really.

“From that shy girl that we saw as a 13, 14, 15-year-old that has this ability that everyone’s seeing now, we saw it when she was that young, but to be doing what she’s doing is unbelievable.”

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