England boss Sarina Wiegman has stressed she does not want to “push it” with regard to Beth Mead’s chances of making this summer’s World Cup.
Wiegman on Tuesday named a squad for the Arnold Clark Cup missing Mead, the Golden Boot winner and player of the tournament from the Lionesses’ triumphant Euro 2022 campaign who is recovering from an ACL injury sustained in November.
Last month the Arsenal player posted a tribute to her mother June on social media following her death from ovarian cancer.
She said: “Of course she had, besides her knee, other issues. Her private situation was very hard.
“Of course I’m in contact with her. I left the knee situation for what it was until now, I just wanted her to be OK and get settled a little bit in her new situation with the sadness she had around her.
“She has to start up her recovery, which she does. She told me she’s doing well. Of course she really wants to make it.
When then asked if she was planning without Mead, who was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December, Wiegman said: “It’s a little early to say. But I don’t want to push it.
“She’s had so many things going on in her life that I don’t want to push it at this moment, and we’ll see how her recovery and rehab goes, and then we’ll sit down at a point, and that will be very shortly, and then we’ll look at the future a little bit.
“But I don’t want to look too much forward right now because she just comes from a very hard situation.”
Other players not featuring in the 26-player squad are forward Bethany England and midfielder Jordan Nobbs, who made January moves from Chelsea to Tottenham and Arsenal to Aston Villa respectively.
Wiegman said: “They’re competing for selection. I think they’re in a good place, they’ve moved to clubs where they are playing a lot now, and they can improve their game.
“But you can’t control what your competitors do, and what choice I will make then, together with my technical staff, and that’s the situation they’re in right now.
“It’s good they get minutes, that it makes their position better, but it doesn’t guarantee you’re being selected.”
Manchester United’s Alessia Russo is part of the squad a week on from being the subject of a world-record bid from Arsenal that was turned down.
And Wiegman said: “I went to the game last Sunday (United’s 0-0 draw with Everton) and I don’t think she was distracted (by the transfer situation). I think she was just doing her job and very motivated to play a good game.”
England captain and Arsenal defender Leah Williamson is one of a group of players back after injury, while two-cap Manchester City midfielder Laura Coombs returns to the fold having last been involved in November 2020, and last played for the Lionesses in 2015.
Uncapped Emily Ramsey, on loan at Everton from Manchester United, is also included as one of four goalkeepers in the squad, and Chelsea defender Jess Carter has been recalled. United’s Nikita Parris, Everton’s Gabby George and City’s Esme Morgan, who has been injured, are others omitted.
Wiegman’s side, who won the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup a year ago, open this campaign and their fixtures for 2023 by playing South Korea in Milton Keynes a week on Thursday. They then face Italy in Coventry three days later, followed by Belgium in Bristol another three days after that.