Mary Earps on England’s World Cup agony, her fight with Nike, and making goalkeeping cool

The Lionesses goalkeeper speaks exclusively with ITV News' Sports Editor, Steve Scott.

England goalkeeper Mary Earps says she “is not quite there yet” on feeling proud of her World Cup performance, following the Lionesses’ defeat against Spain in last month’s final.

‘‘You know deep down somewhere in your body that it’s very hard to get to a World Cup final, and it’s something that people only dream of.’’ 

Earps says that she has stopped reliving that night in Sydney. ‘‘I’m not so much replaying it now’’, she told ITV News. ‘‘I think that would be a brutal form of therapy.’’ 

The England and Manchester revealed she forced herself to smile when she was presented with the FIFA Golden Glove - an award given to the tournament’s best goalkeeper - in the minutes after the final whistle. 

England goalkeeper Mary Earps was awarded the Golden Glove at the Women's World Cup. Credit: PA Images

‘‘I’m just not very good at hiding things. What you see is what you get’’, Earps explained to ITV News’ Sports Editor, Steve Scott. 

‘‘I just kept thinking about my loved ones really, and thinking about what that moment would also mean to them’’, she said. ‘‘And if there could be a picture where I don’t look miserable as sin, you know, that'll be a really nice photo to look back on and for them to have. I remember just feeling really, I don't know, sombre at the time, but trying to clap.’’

Earps’ had caused a social-media stir after saving a critical penalty from Spain’s Jenni Hermoso, preventing England from going 2-0 down. After her teammates ran to her in celebration, Earps’ x-rated shout became a viral hit.

‘‘That was wild, yeah, that was crazy’’, she said. ‘’There was so much emotion around that… so much passion, I think you could see.’’

‘‘People who don't know me and maybe have only watched football once in their lifetime and would maybe have this perception that I'm not a very nice person and that I'm some sort of ogre’’, Earps said. ‘‘It's hard to apologise for being myself and how to apologise for such an emotionally charged moment.’’

Earps sat down with ITV News 24 hours after the resignation of Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales, following weeks of global outcry surrounding his unsolicited kiss on Hermoso.

The England goalkeeper says the controversy ‘‘overshadowed’’ the success of a ''fantastic'' 'Spanish team who had already faced ‘‘a lot of adversity.’’

‘‘I think there's still things that need to change’’, Earps said. ‘‘More things [need] to improve in the fight for equality. I think the conversation around equality always sort of centres around equal pay. And I don't think that that's even part of this discussion, it's in other areas we are really focused on’’

But Earps is clear that the Lionesses' success on the pitch has given them a platform and a voice.

‘‘When you're not successful, the doors are very much closed and it's sort of like okay, come back when you're worthy of being listened to.’’

The Lionesses are still embroiled in a pay dispute with the FA. Ahead of their tournament opener against Haiti, the squad shared an open letter expressing their ‘‘disappointment’’. The disagreement centres on the allocation of tournament prize money, paid out by FIFA. 

The players agreed to ‘‘pause’’ negotiations for the duration of the World Cup and Earps said she expects the negotiations to conclude amicably. 

‘‘Nobody wants to fight with anyone. Everyone's here to all sing off the same hymn sheet or push the game in the right direction. And I'm sure if we all want that we'll all have a positive conclusion.''

Earps added: ‘‘And we're due to meet up really soon. And I think that'll be now everyone's had a little bit of time to rest and digest and process we can we can pick up those conversations and move forward as a collective.’’

Her own public row with Nike over their refusal to sell a replica of Earps’ goalkeeper shirt ended in a u-turn, as the sports giant agreed to market a ‘‘limited quantities’’ of her green jersey. 

‘‘I feel really strongly that there's a large group of people who are not being served by our main sponsor’’, Earps says. ‘‘And it's a really damaging message to send to young kids. And that again, just ties into my passion for football, my passion for goalkeeping. I feel really strongly about making goalkeeping cool and making it accessible to people.’’

Earps says the Nike campaign was ‘‘a bit of a pinch me’’ moment. 

‘‘I never expected to make any sort of change. I just guess I wanted to feel like a little bit heard and I wanted also for the fans to know that I have really been trying hard and fighting for them’’, she says. ‘‘And that was really what it was about. It wasn't about, I don't know, trying to kick up a stink and make a big, big tidal wave. It was simply to let the fans know that hey, this isn't right.’’

Meanwhile, Earps wouldn’t be drawn on her future at Manchester United, amid speculation that she will shortly leave the club for Arsenal.

Asked about the future of women's football, Earps said: ‘‘I would like it to look shiny with trophies. And yeah, lots of success, lots of good memories, and hopefully plenty of packed out stadiums.’’

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