Mary Earps hurt by ‘unnecessary’ criticism over failure to interact with fans

Mary Earps was criticised by a Manchester United fan – Charlotte Tattersall/Manchester United

Mary Earps has been left hurt by “unnecessary” criticism from fans who feel women’s footballers are not dedicating enough time to meet spectators after matches.

The England goalkeeper’s comments came after a fan had said on Instagram: “It’s a shame Mary Earps is far too busy and important to stop for her fans these days!!” following Manchester United’s victory over Everton on Sunday.

Women’s Super League players have traditionally spent lengthy periods of time signing autographs and posing for photographs with supporters after matches amid a much more relaxed pitchside atmosphere than men’s professional fixtures, but as the popularity of the women’s game has risen the demands on players are rising too and Earps urged fans to be realistic.

“It’s something that we as players are experiencing in a very different way with the profile of the game changing. We love to interact with the fans, but it’s at times becoming really difficult to keep everybody happy and to interact with as many people as possible,” Earps said, ahead of England’s Women’s Nations League meeting with Belgium on Friday.

“We’re obviously so grateful that thousands and thousands of people want to meet us and come and talk to us, but the reality of it is, if that’s the expectation, we’re always going to fall short.

“We love it [meeting fans] but it’s becoming really difficult to maintain that. We’re doing our best.”

Meanwhile, England head coach Sarina Wiegman, who turned 54 on Thursday, addressed the issue of diversity in the women’s game. It is a topic that has been put back on the agenda this week after Arsenal were criticised for releasing an all-white squad photograph and England defender Niamh Charles said the issue needed to be “addressed at all levels”.

“That doesn’t change overnight,” Wiegman said, when asked about improving diversity. “We started doing things [to make the game more accessible to all] really intensely and it’s not going to change in a month or two months, but now with ‘discover my talent’, with things going on in the FA, the emerging talent training centres, there’s more access to football for everyone and hopefully in the future, as quickly as possible, it will change and we see what we see in society playing a part in top football too.”

Wiegman also revealed that Chelsea forward Lauren James will miss both of England’s upcoming matches against Belgium because of concussion protocols, adding: “It’s nothing to worry about. She picked up a concussion and as you know we have to be very careful with the protocols, as we always do, and it’s just too short for the two upcoming games.”

Belgium are top of England’s group after picking up four points from their first two games, while England began with a victory over Scotland but lost their most recent fixture, away against the Netherlands. They meet in Leicester on Friday before Tuesday’s reverse fixture in Leuven.

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